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.
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
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.
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:
- Teens that drink and drive can lose their license for one year
and receive either a minimum $500 fine or 50 hours community service.
- GPS technology can be used to track people out on bond, or may be
used as a condition of probation or suspended sentencing.
- Victims of sexual abuse have been granted up to 20 years to file
lawsuits against their alleged perpetrators.
- Protective orders can now be obtained by more people. This
includes those who have been victims of assault or conduct that creates
a reasonable fear of death.