Oversight of Virginia Department of Corrections Passed in Budget
On Thursday, September 14th, Governor Glenn Youngkin signed a long-awaited compromise budget bill that included funding to create the Office of the Department of Corrections Ombudsman. This new office is an important first step in providing effective and consistent oversight of the state’s largest agency. The Ombudsman’s office will primarily serve to monitor conditions within Virginia Department of Corrections (VADOC) facilities and provide policy recommendations to support the rights and welfare of people incarcerated in VADOC facilities and employees.
The Ombudsman’s Office is the result of a multi-year effort by legislators and advocacy groups, including JULIAN, to provide more oversight of VADOC. The agency controls over $1.5 Billion in annual budget and is responsible for the incarceration of approximately 25,000 people. However, there has been no independent entity responsible for evaluating the safety and living conditions of VADOC facilities since 2011 when the State Board of Corrections was reformed into the Board of Local and Regional Jails and relinquished jurisdiction over state prisons.
Chuck Meire, Deputy Policy Director of JULIAN said, “The creation of the VADOC Ombudsman’s Office is an important victory for government transparency and oversight in Virginia. While this is an important first step, more work is required to ensure the office is permanently funded and given the proper powers to fulfill its role.”
The funding to create the Ombudsman’s Office is contained within the budget bill for the 2023-2024 fiscal year. $250,000 will be appropriated under the Office of the State Inspector General to create the Corrections Ombudsman’s Office and a board of appointees including legislators, service providers, formerly incarcerated people, family members, and correctional officers to oversee the Ombudsman.