Dillwyn Correctional Center, Dillwyn, Virginia
May 2, 2020
In early May, a hunger strike and protest erupted due to COVID-19 at Dillwyn Correction Center in Virginia. Shortly after the disturbances, several prisoners were transferred to another prison for “security reasons,” but the Department of Corrections in Virginia has declined to provide further information.
Virginia Public Radio reported on the hunger strike and protest, saying it started when a guard refused to wear a mask as positive cases of COVID-19 were rising.
Debra Turner, whose son was incarcerated in Dillwyn during the protest, runs a Facebook page for “advocates” for those incarcerated at Dillwyn. Turner stated that the guard said to prisoners: “…that she hoped that everyone in that building came down with COVID-19.”
Other contributors, such as Angela Adinolfi whose husband was incarcerated in Dillwyn during the protest, reported to Virginia Public Radio about hearing about how the prison was not complying with CDC guidelines for COVID-19, such as the lack of cleaning supplies, hand sanitizer, and that people were being bunked a few feet away from each other that violated social distance policies. An online petition made shortly after the protest by a prisoner in Dillwyn confirms these conditions.
According to these sources, the protest started on May 2nd when thirty beds were going to be added to an already over-crowded building being used to segregate prisoners who had tested positive for COVID-19. RadioIQ says that prisoners “…reportedly barricaded the doors, and correctional officers or C-Os threatened to use tear gas”; another source said that “…about 20 COs from Nottoway, from State Farm- they brought them in from all around, plus dogs- went into those buildings, and seven came out in shackles.” Simultaneously, a hunger strike was started elsewhere on the complex. The sources reported that, after these events, the warden did not put the additional thirty beds in the building. Both Turner’s son and Adinofi’s husband were amongst the prisoners transferred to Sussex II State Prison after the events.
While the Secretary of Public Safety stated that the transfer was for “security reasons,” CBS-19 News reported that an email from the state indicated that the transfer was due to a hunger strike. The ACLU of Virginia started monitoring the transfer to Sussex II due to concerns that it was retaliation for a hunger strike and that it violated the Department of Correction’s (DOC) policies regarding transfers during a pandemic. Recently, the ACLU reached a settlement on May 21, 2020, in a federal suit filed against the DOC for conditions during the pandemic that would allow the organization to investigate the transfers from Dillwyn after the protests.
“Prisoners protest as more than 700 contract COVID-19,” RadioIQ, May 12, 2020.
“Settlement could allow oversight of Dillwyn prison transfer,” CBS19 News, May 13, 2020.
“ACLU monitors hunger strike allegation in Dillwyn prison transfer,” CBS19 News, May 7, 2020.
“ACLU-VA reaches settlement in COVID-19 lawsuit against VDOC on behalf of 27 individuals,” ACLU Virginia, May 12, 2020.
“Inmates have made half a million face masks during pandemic, now some are raising concerns,” Richmond Times-Dispatch, May 9, 2020.
Article published: 5/25/20
Header photo source: ACLU-Virginia