By the end of this year, California must release 9,600 prisoners from the nation’s largest correctional system, because the Supreme Court says overcrowding makes it impossible to provide adequate healthcare for inmates.
Failing to do so constitutes cruel and unusual punishment - a violation of the U.S. Constitution. Virginia’s prisons are also crowded and facing a lawsuit over medical care that will be heard this spring, but on other reasons for change in the Commonwealth’s correctional centers.
The American Civil Liberties Union and a church-based group called the Family Foundation don’t agree about many things, but they’ve found common ground on a surprising issue involving prison inmates.
State prisons routinely handcuff inmates when they’re taken outside prison walls, and jails may use shackles to prevent escape, but there’s a growing chorus of protest over such treatment for pregnant women. Some have been forced to deliver babies with their ankles in chains, but Abigail Turner – a lawyer for the Legal Aid Justice Center in Charlottesville says that may soon change.
More than 33,000 people live behind bars in Virginia, and from their cells few have a view of the outside world, but a Richmond artist aims to change that.
If you were locked up for months, years or a lifetime and could look out a window, what would you most like to see? That’s the question Mark Strandquist has put to inmates in Virginia jails and prisons.
“And then I go to that place, photograph it and bring the image to them, and then they write about it.”
It’s one of the state’s largest companies, with $50 million in sales each year. It pays workers less than a dollar an hour, but for every job that opens, ten people apply. You may never have heard of it, but chances are you own one of its products.
Virginia Correctional Enterprises makes license plates for state residents and the State Department in DC. It also molds model workers like 52-year-old Alexander Parker.