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FAMM releases statement on creation of ombudsman for Virginia’s prisons in budget bill
RICHMOND – FAMM Vice President of Policy Molly Gill issued the following statement in response to passage of the new prison oversight provision in Virginia’s budget bill.
“Virginia taxpayers spend $1.5 billion annually on prisons – we simply cannot afford to not know what’s going on in prisons,” Gill said. “It’s impossible to fix problems you don’t know exist. More than 25,000 families count on the state to keep their incarcerated loved ones safe and healthy. An independent ombudsman is a good first step towards more accountability and transparency in this sprawling agency, but it shouldn’t be the last.”
The budget provides $250,000 for the creation of the Office of the Department of Corrections Ombudsman, which has power to inspect prisons and make recommendations for improvements to prison conditions. The budget gives the ombudsman the same rights of access to prisons as those of the existing Office of the State Inspector General, which provides oversight for numerous other state agencies. The new ombudsman must present a strategic plan and initial report on its activities to the governor and legislature by November 15, 2024.
The budget’s oversight provisions also create an independent Corrections Oversight Committee to provide assistance and guidance to the corrections ombudsman. The committee will be composed of state lawmakers of both parties, corrections staff, formerly incarcerated people, medical and mental health professionals, and others impacted by the state prison system.
The bill now goes to Governor Glenn Youngkin for his approval and signature.
A previous poll found that 82 percent of Americans support independent oversight of prison systems, and that support was equally strong among Republicans, Independents, and Democrats.
For more than three decades, FAMM has united the voices of affected families, the formerly incarcerated, and a range of stakeholders and advocates to fight for a more fair and effective justice system. FAMM has led the fight to reform extreme mandatory sentencing laws and to promote rehabilitation and dignity for all people in prison, 94 percent of whom will return to our neighborhoods one day.
FAMM is a national nonpartisan advocacy organization that promotes fair and effective criminal justice policies that safely reduce incarceration, save taxpayer dollars, and keep families together. Founded in 1991, FAMM has secured bold sentencing and prison reform across the country while elevating the voices of directly impacted individuals and families.