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Virginia will take over Lawrenceville prison, shutter four facilities

Virginia Department of Corrections Headquarters, fencing and building
Sam Brown
VCU Capital News Service
The state Department of Corrections will take control of the only privately run prison facility next summer.

The shakeup comes months after the governor appointed new leadership for state prisons.

State officials announced Friday they’re taking over Virginia’s only privately operated prison and closing four state-run facilities.

The Virginia Department of Corrections cited safety concerns, staffing shortages and rising costs as its reasons for closing the state-run facilities beginning July 1, 2024: Augusta Correctional Center, Sussex II State Prison, Haynesville Correctional Unit No. 17 and Stafford Community Corrections Alternative Program (CCAP).

VADOC Director Chad Dotson said in a statement he was “committed to ensuring that those individuals impacted by facility closures will be able to maintain continuous employment within VADOC if they choose to do so.”

The international prison contractor Geo Group currently runs the Lawrenceville Correctional Center, which is located in rural Southside Virginia. In recent years, the state has deducted several million dollars in payments to Geo for failing to adequately staff the facility, according to reporting from the Virginia Mercury.

Incarcerated people housed at the facility have complained about dangerous living conditions, including unexplained deaths and injuries and untreated medical conditions.

The state will take over LCC beginning Aug.1, 2024, according to the VADOC. The department did not provide a reason for the change, but said it would work with Geo Group to “ensure that current employees are afforded the opportunity to apply for state employment.”

The shakeup comes several months after Gov. Glenn Youngkin appointed Dotson to lead the department, taking over for longtime director Harold Clarke.

“I am deeply appreciative of Governor Youngkin’s support to help the Department gain additional efficiency and promote the security and safety of the employees and inmates at the VADOC, especially our security staff,” Dotson said.

Shawn Weneta, a policy strategist with the ACLU of Virginia who was incarcerated at Lawrenceville for six years, praised the move.

“I applaud Director @ChadDotsonVA on this move to shutter the crumbling facility and divest from the shear lack of competence of @GEOGroup in Virginia,” Weneta said on his personal account on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.

Ben Paviour covers courts and criminal justice for VPM News with a focus on accountability.
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