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Effort to Shut Down Virginia's Only Private Prison Dies an Early Death in Richmond


Lawmakers are rejecting an effort to abolish private prisons in Virginia.

Franchesca Hylton is worried about her husband, who’s an inmate at Virginia's one and only private prison in Lawrenceville.

"He has a heart condition, and since he has been at Lawrenceville he hasn't gotten the proper care," Hylton explained. "It wasn't up until recently that he was able to go see his cardiologist. And because of the lack of medical attention that he has gotten, it has fatally gotten worse."

Hylton testified before a Senate committee in favor of a bill that would end the ability of the Department of Corrections to enter into contracts with companies like the GEO Group, a Florida-based company that operates the prison.

A senate panel killed the bill after Senator Joe Morrissey, a Democrat from Richmond, said the profit motive is also a problem at state-operated prisons, where he says inmates are gouged for things like aspirin or phone calls.

"They pay $1 or $1.10 or $1.50 a minute," he said. "It is that profit, which the patron said he is trying to take away, still remains in this bill."

Morrissey joined four other Democrats on the committee who killed the bill, allowing the GEO Group to continue running a private prison in Virginia -- at least until the current contract expires in 2023.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.
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