One State Senator's Push to Close Virginia's Only Private Prison

Jan 12, 2021

State lawmakers are about to consider a bill that would outlaw private prisons.

Housing inmates in Virginia prisons costs the state about $70 a day. But the private sector can do it a lot cheaper; about $50 a day.

Senator Adam Ebbin is a Democrat from Alexandria who says lawmakers should not be outsourcing something as important as taking care of inmates.

"It's really a policy question," Ebbin explains. "Should we be in the businesses of outsourcing one of our key functions? We don't do this for other prisons. We only do it for the one."

The Lawrenceville Correctional Center is the only privately-operated prison in Virginia.
Credit geogroup.com

That would be the Lawrenceville Correctional Center, the only private prison in Virginia. Ebbin's bill would outlaw the Department of Corrections from outsourcing inmates to for-profit corporations.

David Rook at the Virginia Association of Recovery Residences says he wants to make sure Ebbin's bill would not prohibit contracts with private vendors for halfway houses.

"Well that would be a concern because a lot of these programs are offering offenders a place to land when they reenter society," Rook says. "And if they don't have a place to land when they come in that kind of helps them get on their feet then we're asking for recidivism rates to rise."

Ebbin says prohibiting for-profit reentry programs is not the goal of his legislation, and he'll be working to make sure the law is aimed squarely at closing the Lawrenceville private prison.

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