The Commonwealth of Virginia is a beautiful, leafy state that is home to Virginia Beach, the Blue Ridge Mountains, Norfolk Naval Base, and many U.S. historical sites of interest. The most populous county in the state is Fairfax, also the home of the C.I.A. Other large counties are Prince William, Chesterfield and Henrico.

Virginia is for Lovers, but this doesn't mean that the state is all sunshine and happiness. The state has an extensive, and sometimes confusing, system of local and regional jails. If you, or someone you know is headed to jail in Virginia, you may be interested to get the inside scoop about what jail is like, and what you can expect.

Incarceration Rate
Virginia has an incarceration rate of 480 per 100,000 people. Although this number is a little lower than the U.S. average of 502, it still reflects large amounts of people who are "doing time." Housing all these inmates is not cheap, and puts a significant financial burden on the state.

Virginia is one of only seven states that provide state funding for renovation and construction of their local and regional jails. In fiscal year 2008, the state spent $42 of state funds per capita on jail operations, while other states spent no more than $10 per capita. Although they provide a substantial amount of funding to the jails, the state government has very little direct authority over jail operations.

Types of Jails
The first documented use of a jail system in Virginia was in 1608, recorded in Jamestown documents. The system today includes three different types of facilities: local jails that generally hold inmates with offenses that are confined to their own local jurisdictions', regional jails that can hold inmates from localities that do not have their own jails, and jail farms, which are designated as places those sentenced to jail time can go work during their sentence.

There are currently two such farms in the state. Jails generally house inmates who are charged with a felony or misdemeanor, parole or probation violators, and those who have been sentenced to serve one year or less.

Virginia also has a prison system, which is different from the jails. Prisons are run by the Department of Corrections, and are designed for inmates with sentences of over one year.

Crime Classification
Felonies in Virginia are separated into 6 categories, with a Class 1 Felony being the most severe and incurring the harshest penalties, and a Class 6 being the least severe.

Virginia's jail system is very fragmented in because responsibilities for different aspects of the system are divided among many different entities. It can be confusing to navigate the system because of this.

Recent Changes to Virginia Law
Laws are always evolving, and it is important to stay on top of what the law says in your state. Beginning on August 1, 2011, the following laws will go into effect in Virginia: