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Advocates question DOC claim about restrictive housing

(AP) After Virginia prison officials recently announced the state has ended what it calls “restrictive housing,” some inmate advocates disputed the claim.

The Department of Corrections issued a news release saying it had “completed the removal of restrictive housing” in Virginia’s prisons by offering at least four hours of out-of-cell time for those inmates.

But the ACLU of Virginia and Interfaith Action for Human Rights told the Richmond Times-Dispatch the claim was not true. Both groups said they have gotten complaints about conditions that don’t meet the standards the state described.

The ACLU wrote that the department “is able to make these unsubstantiated claims because there is no system of independent oversight over Virginia prisons, and therefore the public has no way to verify its alleged reforms.”

The organization has a pending class-action lawsuit against the corrections department over the use of what it calls long-term solitary confinement in Virginia’s two supermax prisons.

Meanwhile, Gay Gardner, with Interfaith Action for Human Rights, wrote in an email to the newspaper that particularly since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, her organization has heard from even general population prisoners who have not been getting four hours outside their cells each day.

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