Prison closings in Virginia mean worse conditions for prisoners

by Robert Machado

Prisons are closing in Virginia. Officials say they can’t afford to keep them open.

“Fight Mass Containment” – Art: Roger “Rab” Moore, G-02296, HDSP Z-168, P.O. Box 3030, Susanville CA 96127
“Fight Mass Containment” – Art: Roger “Rab” Moore, G-02296, HDSP Z-168, P.O. Box 3030, Susanville CA 96127

All the inmates needed to be out of Powhatan Correctional Center – not including receiving and medical because those will remain open – in Powhatan County, the Cold Springs Work Center in Augusta County, the White Post Diversion Center in Clarke County and the Culpeper Correctional Center for Women. Culpeper had been scheduled to open in 2015 but will not open.

All inmates needed to be removed by Nov. 1, 2014, which gave them only two weeks to move everyone so that by Nov. 1 all operations would stop.

Due to state spending cuts to close a revenue gap in this years’ budget, 506 correctional officials will be laid off. The layoffs in the Department of Corrections represent 90 percent of the 565 employees to be released throughout state executive branch agencies to help cut spending by $92.4 million this year.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe and the General Assembly leaders agreed that in order to close a revenue shortfall projected at $2.4 billion in the two year budget, Powhatan would lay off 264 employees and 75 positions will transfer to Deep Meadow Correctional Center. Cold Springs Work Center will lay off 45 employees, while Post Diversion will lay off 34 employees and the Culpeper Correctional Center for Women, created at the site of a former juvenile facility, will not open, resulting in an additional 163 layoffs and elimination of more than 200 positions.

Corrections Director Harold Clarke told employees that the scope of spending cuts will make it difficult for state officials to be placed in other jobs. Mr. Clarke also said that the reduction will leave significantly fewer opportunities for placements because of their need to save an additional $3,272,602 in unfilled vacancies. The Corrections Department also is losing $4.1 million in this fiscal year.

As receiving inmates, we at the Haynesville Correctional Center are put in the SHU, where we are treated the same as the inmates that are back here for disciplinary reasons. They said that we will remain in SHU until all movements are complete and bed space becomes available for us.

As anyone who’s ever been in the SHU they know we are put in a small freezing cell, and we’re strip-searched anytime we leave the cell, which only happens for recreation, showers or medical. We get one hour of recreation time a day, during which we are put in cages. Depending on the correctional office (CO), we aren’t allowed to wear thermals outside even when it’s cold.

As receiving inmates, we at the Haynesville Correctional Center are put in the SHU, where we are treated the same as the inmates that are back here for disciplinary reasons. They said that we will remain in SHU until all movements are complete and bed space becomes available for us.

As receiving inmates, we have done nothing to be put in the SHU – and regardless, NO ONE should be treated like this, period! A lot of us ask for extra blankets or to be put into the general population while awaiting transfer to our final destination to do our time, but we are denied.

We cannot order food from regular commissary, so we all have dropped weight rapidly back here. I came in weighing 226 pounds and I now weigh 206. I’m 6-foot-2. My weight before I was incarcerated was 235 pounds. I like to work out to stay healthy, but I’m scared to work out in here for fear of losing more weight – that and it’s really cold, so I have no desire to do anything but curl up in my thin blanket.

Although we are incarcerated and have been convicted of crimes that have led us to where we are, I’d like to be treated like a human, not an animal. If we continue to voice our opinions, hopefully it’ll eventually make something happen.

I give those locked up in the California Department of Corrections and anywhere else that they’ve done a hunger strike much respect. I know it’s a mind thing, but I’m a person who loves to cook and I eat a lot when I’m able to, so I don’t think I can reach that extremity. All of you who can are very strong and brave, and my prayers and blessings go out to you all.

I was once told to stand up for something or you’ll fall for anything, so my first step is writing San Francisco Bay View to let everyone know how we are treated and how we will not take it anymore. Eventually a change will come, like Sam Cooke said.

We need to get the Virginia Department of Corrections to make some changes, because although we are incarcerated and have been convicted of crimes that have led us to where we are, I’d like to be treated like a human, not an animal. If we continue to voice our opinions, hopefully it’ll eventually make something happen. Until then, same fight, different cage.

Send our brother some love and light: Robert Machado, 1036457, Haynesville Correctional Center SHU B-3, P.O. Box 129, Haynesville, VA 22472. Typed by Adrian McKinney.