Del. Patrick Hope

Del. Patrick Hope (D-47th) speaks before members of the House Committee on Counties, Cities and Towns on Feb. 9, 2018.

A local member of the House of Delegates is hoping 2019 will be the year colleagues push for release of more statistical information on the use of solitary confinement in Virginia’s prisons.

Del. Patrick Hope (D-47th) has introduced legislation that would required the state Department of Corrections to submit an annual report to the governor and legislature, providing more robust information on the use of solitary confinement.

“This bill just asks the Department of Corrections to collect data of who is in solitary confinement – other states collect this data, and I want Virginia to do it, too,” said Hope, who has worked to reduce the amount of solitary confinement in Virginia’s prison system since his election to office.

What are the chances for the bill? A very similar version introduced by state Sen. Dave Marsden (D-Fairfax) in 2018 was held over to the 2019 session, which could either be good news or bad news.

Hope said he expects the Department of Corrections could oppose the bill. “I’m trying to convince them they have nothing to fear but fear itself,” he said.

In Virginia, solitary confinement generally means that an inmate is held by himself or herself for 22 or more hours during a 24-hour period. Reasons for isolation range from discipline to protective custody.

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