A new report from the Center for Public Integrity shows Virginia sending more students to court, per capita, than any other state – often because school resource officers arrest them for minor offenses like kicking a trash can, fighting on the playground or swearing.
There are about 30,000 Virginians in state prisons, and Virginia spends more than $25,000 a year to house each of them, making the Department of Corrections the most expensive agency in Richmond, with a billion dollar annual budget.
It spends $160 million on healthcare, but critics say that care is inadequate, and some inmates could be dying for lack of medical attention. Another 30,000 people are locked up in city or county jails, and as we'll hear throughout this series, their care is also questionable.
The state of Virginia spends an average of $5,300 a year per inmate for medical care in prisons, and that cost has been rising 5-7 percent per year, but taxpayers may not be getting their money’s worth, and people locked up for minor crimes could be paying with their lives.
Fifty years ago, this country began closing mental hospitals where people with psychiatric disorders were often warehoused. The idea was to send patients back to their communities, where they would live better lives with help from local mental health programs.
Unfortunately, those services were limited, and many people ended up on the streets or behind bars. Today, up to 18% of inmates in Virginia prisons are taking drugs for psychiatric conditions, and critics say some are being punished because they can’t comply with prison rules.