Take Action

Action Alert:  Please sign petition to GOV. NORTHAM: SIGN AN EXECUTIVE ORDER BANNING SOLITARY CONFINEMENT.  Sign the petition here.

Action Alert:  Prisoner Activist Askari Danso Held in Solitary After Being Transferred Due to His Organizing Activities. 4/26/18

VAPOC (Virginia Prisoner of Conscience) founder Dale Pughsley (aka Askari Danso) was transferred from Sussex II, a security level 4 prison, to Sussex II, a security level 4-5 prison, on April 24 along with a cell mate and then put into solitary confinement.  No explanation was given. Mr. Askari had not violated any prison rules and there is a strong belief that it is due to the many grievances he has filed as well as his organizing activities in the prison.  We want answers.  Call Ms. Leech, his counselor at Sussex I, at  (804) 834-9967 (extension 41789) and to inquire about Askari’s situation as well as that of his cell mate D. Braxton.  Also, call Sussex 2  (804) 834-2678 and ask for Lt. M. Carpenter and express your concern for Askari’s right to file grievances on behalf of the inmates at Sussex 2 without fear of punishment. It was Sussex 2 that ordered the transfer and solitary confinement of these two men.

Action Needed for a Red Onion prisoner (posted 4/12/18)

Interfaith Action for Human Rights is concerned about Michael Lawrence, who is incarcerated at Red Onion State Prison. Please contact the officials listed below and share this with others you know.  It would be helpful to have a mixture of letters, emails, and phone calls.
Michael Lawrence (#1023287) has been in solitary confinement (“segregation”) for more than 16 years.  He is 60 years old and is serving a life sentence at Red Onion State Prison in Wise County, VA.  Virginia has a “step-down” program to help people transition out of long-term segregation, but Michael Lawrence has been unable to complete the program.  He states that, each time he has a status review, he is told he has received too many “poor” ratings, but no one has told him what exactly he scored poorly on.  (The Department of Corrections has confirmed to IAHR that prisoners are not allowed to see these ratings, which are the basis for their progress or lack of progress within the “step-down” program.)  When he tried to file a grievance about his failure to advance in the “step-down” program, he was told this is not grievable.
Michael Lawrence states that staff has harassed him with racist epithets, has tampered with his food, and told him he will be given negative ratings at each status review so that he will never get out of segregation.  He names other prisoners who have witnessed these statements.  Michael Lawrence also claims to have serious medical problems for which he is not receiving appropriate treatment.

PLEASE URGE VDOC OFFICIALS TO CONDUCT A SERIOUS INVESTIGATION OF MICHAEL LAWRENCE’S ALLEGATIONS.  YOU MAY INCLUDE ANY OF THE FOLLOWING POINTS:

    • Keeping someone in segregation for 16 years is not consistent with international human rights norms, including the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners.  Urge the VDOC to take immediate steps to increase Michael Lawrence’s time outside of his cell, to establish a written plan and timeline for moving him out of segregation, and to make this plan available to Mr. Lawrence and his family.
    • All individuals in segregation/restrictive housing should be given detailed written explanations for their retention in segregation at the end of each review period.  The explanations should cite specific reasons why the individual cannot be safely housed in the general prison population.
  • Urge the VDOC to ensure that Michael Lawrence is not subjected to harassment or retaliation of any kind; that his allegations are thoroughly and impartially investigated; and that anyone found responsible for such treatment is held accountable.
  • Urge the VDOC to ensure that Michael Lawrence receives appropriate medical diagnosis and treatment promptly.

PLEASE WRITE TO OR PHONE THE FOLLOWING VDOC OFFICIALS:

Warden Jeffery Kiser, Red Onion State Prison, 10800 H. Jack Rose Highway, Pound, VA 24279,  jeffery.kiser@vadoc.virginia.gov, 276-796-7510

Henry Ponton, Regional Operations Chief for the Western Region, Virginia Department of Corrections, 5427 Peters Creek Road #250, Roanoke, VA 24019, Department of Corrections, henry.ponton@vadoc.virginia.gov, 540-561-7050

Marcus Elam, Western Regional Administrator, Virginia Department of Corrections, 5427 Peters Creek Road #250, Roanoke, VA 24019, marcus elam@vadoc.virginia.gov, 540-561-7050

A. David Robinson, Chief of Corrections Operations, Virginia Department of Corrections, 6900 Altmore Drive, Richmond, VA 23225, david.robinson@vadoc.virginia.gov, 804-674-3000

Harold Clarke, Director of Corrections, 6900 Altmore Drive, Richmond, VA 23225, Director.Clarke@vadoc.virginia.gov, 804-674-3000

Write to your legislator on Fishback (ongoing action):

RIHD has called for much needed action on Fishback prisoner justice.  ARE ANY OF THE BELOW EIGHT (8)  COMMITTEE MEMBERS YOUR DISTRICT LEGISLATOR?  Send a pre-written “FISHBACK”  Letter (see sample letter link below)  to VA Senate “Courts of Justice”  Committee Members who oppose correcting sentence error of the past that remain uncorrected.  Sample letter is here. 
Send the letters to your district members:  
Senate Courts of Justice”  Committee Members who voted against correcting Fishback.  We need public support from constituents in their district. Feel free use, edit the above pre-written petition letter
Senator Mark D. Obenshain (R)  Senate District 2 (Chairman), Mailing address: P.O. Box 555 Harrisonburg, Virginia 22803  (540) 437-1451 email: district26@senate.virginia.gov
Senator Thomas K. Norment, Jr. (R)  Senate District. Mailing address: P.O. Box 6205. Williamsburg, Virginia 23188. (757) 259-7810. email: district03@senate.virginia.gov
Senator Ryan T. McDougle (R)  Senate District 4 Mailing address: P.O. Box 187 Mechanicsville, Virginia 23111. (804) 730-1026 email: district04@senate.virginia.gov
Senator Richard H. Stuart (R)  Senate District 28 Mailing address: P.O. Box 1146 Montross, Virginia 22520 (804) 493-8892 email: district28@senate.virginia.gov
Senator William M. Stanley, Jr. (R) Senate District 20 Mailing address: 13508 Booker T. Washington Hwy. Moneta, Virginia 24121 (540) 721-6028 email: district20@senate.virginia.gov
Senator Bryce E. Reeves (R)  Senate District 17. Mailing address: P.O. Box 7021. Fredericksburg, Virginia 22404 (540) 645-8440. email: district17@senate.virginia.gov
Senator A. Benton “Ben” Chafin  (R)  Senate District 38 Mailing address: P.O. Box 1210 Lebanon, Virginia 24266 (276) 889-1044 email: district38@senate.virginia.gov
Senator Glen H. Sturtevant, Jr. (R)  Senate District 10 Mailing address: P.O. Box 2535 Midlothian, Virginia 23113. (804) 601-4046. email: district10@senate.virginia.gov

Call and/or email these legislators  (posted on 3/2/18, ongoing)

Tell VA lawmakers: Let’s invest in a better system! Stop budgeting for new youth prisons!
Call the elected officials responsible for finalizing Virginia’s budget. Whether you call one or call them all, they need to hear from community members like you. See phone bank script below
Senators
Thomas Norment – (804) 698-7503
Emmett Hanger – (804) 698-7524
Richard Saslaw – (804) 698-7535
Janet Howell – (804) 698-7532
Stephen Newman – (804) 698-7523
Frank Ruff – (804) 698-7515
Frank Wagner – (804) 698-7507
Representatives
Chris Jones – (804) 698-1089
Christopher Peace – (804) 698-1097
Barry Knight – (804) 698-1081
Scott Garrett – (804) 698-1023
Luke Torian – (804) 698-1052
Mark Sickles – (804) 698-1043
Spread the Word
Forward this email to 10 family members, coworkers, and friends who care about the future of Virginia’s youth.
Stay Involved
Stay up to date and show your support by following RISE for Youth on Twitter and Facebook.

My name is __first and last___, and I live in [City/Town]. I saw that the legislature is budgeting for new youth prisons and I think that’s the wrong approach for Virginia.
Building new youth prisons would threaten to undo the progress we’ve made so far. I’m against youth prisons and so are members of my community. They are an irresponsible waste of taxpayer dollars, especially when we know they don’t work. That’s why the legislature should instead invest in community-based alternatives to incarceration that emphasize smaller, therapeutic options are a better approach.
I urge Delegate/Senator __last name__to keep funds for new youth prisons out of the upcoming budget and make sure that the money from closing Beaumont goes to community programs that will help kids.

Thanks and let me know if you have any questions,
Rebecca Keel MSW (she/her/hers) – Juvenile Justice Organizer
Legal Aid Justice Center
JustChildren Program
123 East Broad Street
Richmond, VA  23219
(p) 804-521-7312 ext.309  (c.) 804-709-8085  (e ) rebecca@justice4all.org

Sign to send Delegate Alfonso Lopez a message.

Stands with La ColectiVA in their campaign to hold Delegate Alfonso Lopez accountable for consulting for ICA Farmville detention center. Sign here.

Restore Parole in Virginia

Since 1995, a year after the Virginia Assembly passed legislation to abolish parole, Virginia has built thirteen new prisons and many new jails even as the crime rate has declined. The money spent building new prisons to house those serving long sentences could be better used in three ways: to fund rehabilitative programs for inmates in the prisons, to fund re-entry programs for those leaving prison, and to fund education in Virginia to prevent children from going to prison.  Sign the petition here.

Sign the petition

A Call to End Health Workers’ Participation in the Practice of Solitary Confinement.  Sign here.

Write to your legislators (Feb. 2018)

We are concerned about two issues being reported from Red Onion State Prison.  Join VAPAC (Virginia Prison Accountability Committee) and their allies in asking for an independent investigation into the recently reported transfer of serious mentally ill prisoners from Red Onion to Wallens Ridge in which it appears that prison guards, instead of trained Behavioral Health personnel and their suicide prevention protocols. Please take action here.

Please contact your Delegate

2/7/2018.   HB 484 (Restitution; defendant on probation until all is paid in full, introduced by Rob Bell) in particular is abominable. While the rest of the country is legislating-away debtor’s prisons, in the form of incarceration stemming from the inability to pay fines and costs, Virginia is busy finding new ways to put indigent people in prison. If you do contact your legislators, please share your thoughts about these bills, as well. The goal is to find 10-20 delegates to oppose them. Contact your delegate today. To find your delegate go here

Please sign

Virginia ranks 5th in the nation for the affordability of a 15 minute call.  Kickbacks paid $3,794,747.49 paid in 2017.  Percentage of call cost going to kickbacks: 35%.  See details here.  Sign the petition for phone justice here.

Please sign!

Parole bills have been heard at the Virginia General Assembly but our legislators are not getting the job done. We have to keep up the pressure.
Prisoners are asking to sign this petition and spread the word.
https://www.change.org/p/petition-to-restore-parole-in-virginia

Please sign!

Correspondence written by the loved ones of Virginia prisoners will be shredded after being opened and copied by prison staff.  The new policy takes hold April 17th, when half of all Virginia Department of Corrections facilities will begin destroying incoming prisoner mail items like letters, pictures, cards and newspaper clippings—and providing prisoners with photocopies of them. Tell Virginia not to shred family photos.
https://actionnetwork.org/petitions/tell-virginia-not-to-shred-family-photos

Sign Up for email updates & action alerts from RIHD (Resource, Information, Help for the Disadvantaged and Disenfranchised)

Please send an online letter!

Defendants in Virginia are getting trapped by harsh sentencing and denied the right to a fair appeal. The Virginia legislature has the power to change this. We need you to tell your legislators to amend Virginia Code of the Sentencing Guidelines Provision F the Virginia Code to address this injustice.
https://actionnetwork.org/letters/stop-the-unfair-sentencing-trap-in-va

Send us your videos!

A good way to share your stories is to post videos.  Please send videos to vapjn1@gmail.com. We need to hear from prisoners, advocates/activist, and government officials expressing or explaining why parole must be reinstated in Virginia. (5 minute max).  

Write to your legislators!

But first, educate yourself on the issues in Virginia. Read about Virginia’s justice system here.
Read about sentencing issues here.
Check out the 2016 poll on prison justice issues and use these numbers to strengthen your argument to reinstate parole.  The poll is here.
We will posting sample letters soon.