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The sponsor of solitary confinement study is ok with governor's amendment

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Lawmakers will return to Richmond next week to consider several amendments from the governor to legislation from the General Assembly. One of those amendments alters a bill aimed at limiting the use of solitary confinement in Virginia prisons.

Advocates for ending solitary confinement in Virginia prisons did not get what they wanted during the General Assembly session. Instead of a prohibition they got a study, and now who can serve on the study committee is the subject of an amendment from Governor Glenn Youngkin. He wants to exclude people or groups who have pending litigation, like for example the ACLU.

Senator Joe Morrissey is a Democrat from Richmond who introduced the bill, and he says he's fine with the governor's amendment.

"Actually, I think it may prove to be helpful with this work study," he explains. "We don't want to interview inmates who are in the middle of ongoing litigation with DOC because there's obvious bias."

Kim Bobo at the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy says if she were at the Department of Corrections, she probably would not want people on the study committee who were also in active litigation. She says that's critically important for a process that requires honesty and transparency.

"I think this is not an unreasonable amendment," Bobo says. "And we are still excited that the study process is going forward and hope that it can lead to a real commitment to limit and reduce the excessive use of solitary confinement in Virginia."

Lawmakers will vote on the amendment when they return to town at the end of the month for a reconvene session, where a simple majority is all that’s needed to approve or reject amendments from the governor.

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. He has reported for NPR, the New York Daily News and the Alexandria Gazette Packet. He has a master's degree in American Studies from Florida State University, and he is a former adjunct professor at Tallahassee Community College. He is the author of four books.