ACLU Demands VA Protect Prisoners from COVID

Sep 30, 2020
NBC12 Richmond

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Virginia’s Department of Corrections boasted it was used to dealing with contagious diseases and assured the public it was doing everything possible to protect inmates.  Today, 31 are dead, more than half from the Deerfield Correctional Center.

Askari Danso

Later this month the Virginia legislature will begin a special session to review the rules governing police conduct in this state, but advocates hope lawmakers might also consider other parts of the criminal justice system -- like prisons and parole. 

On August 18th, Askari Danso will turn 41 – having spent more than half his life in prison.  Over the years, he’s grown to a prison philosopher, and he sees the Department of Corrections as a racist institution.

One of Virginia’s largest prisons – and the only one operated by a private, for-profit company – has water today after a week that saw shutoffs, flooding and a brawl that sent two inmates to the hospital. 

Danielle Wright

For the last three months, inmates in Virginia prisons have had no visitors and spend most of their time in cells or pods.  Educational programs and group therapy are canceled, and sources tell RadioIQ that fights and protests have broken out.  Now, some prisoners are taking their situation to court.

Glenda Desper

To reduce the risk of coronavirus in prisons, the legislature said wardens should consider release of anyone due to get out within the next year.  Officials estimated 2,000 people might be eligible, but so far less than 200 have been freed.  The governor has also pledged to speed up review of pardon requests if prisoners have certain medical conditions, but the state won’t say how many clemency requests it has cleared.