The Virginia State Prison System
In the Commonwealth of Virginia, the Department of Corrections (VADOC) promotes public safety and helps maintain law and order in the society by overseeing the operation of prisons and correctional facilities in the state. VADOC offers re-entry services and care to inmates in its facilities across the state. With over 12,000 employees, 31,000 inmates, and about 50 institutions across the state, VADOC is the state’s largest agency. VADOC does not only provide effective incarceration services, but the agency also supervises inmates and provides evidence-based re-entry services to former inmates and persons under parole or probation. In so doing, VADOC aims to improve public safety long-term.
What is the Difference Between Jail and Prison in Virginia?
Jails serve as temporary detention centers for persons serving short sentences or who are awaiting trial. For example, persons who commit minor offenses, who are penalized with imprisonment for no more than 30 days are held in jails. Also, persons convicted of any misdemeanor classes, which is punishable by jail terms of no longer than 12 months (Va. Code § 18.2–11),, serve the term in jail. Compared to prisons, jails serve a smaller population, and therefore, jails are smaller in size and are run by local government agencies, such as county sheriffs and police departments.
On the other hand, the Federal Bureau of Prisons or the state runs prisons in Virginia through its Department of Corrections. Prisons hold larger amounts of people when compared to jails, and prisons hold inmates for longer sentences. Persons sentenced to imprisonment for more than one year, typically for felony crimes or other serious crimes against the state, serve the terms in prison (Va. Code § 18.2–10)..
How Many Prisons are in Virginia?
Virginia has about 40 prisons or correctional facilities:
Augusta Correctional Center
Baskerville Correctional Center
Bland Correctional Center
Buckingham Correctional Center
Caroline Correctional Unit
Central Virginia Correctional Unit #13
Coffeewood Correctional Center
Cold Springs Correctional Unit #10
Deerfield Correctional Center
Deerfield Men’s Work Center
Deerfield Men’s Work Center 2
Dillwyn Correctional Center
Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women
Green Rock Correctional Center
Greensville Correctional Center
Greensville Work Center
Halifax Correctional Unit
Haynesville Correctional Center
Haynesville Correctional Unit #17
Indian Creek Correctional Center
Keen Mountain Correctional Center
Lawrenceville Correctional Center
Lunenburg Correctional Center
Marion Correctional Treatment Center
Nottoway Correctional Center
Nottoway Work Center
Patrick Henry Correctional Unit
Pocahontas State Correctional Center
Red Onion State Prison
River North Correctional Center
Rustburg Correctional Unit
St. Brides Correctional Center
State Farm Correctional Center
State Farm Enterprise Unit
State Farm Work Center
Sussex I State Prison
Sussex II State Prison
Virginia Correctional Center for Women
Wallens Ridge State Prison
Wise Correctional Unit
How do I search for an Inmate in Virginia State Prison?
VADOC’s Offender Locator provides information about inmates in state prisons to interested parties. The website contains information about inmates in VADOC facilities. VADOC updates information on the website daily; however, VADOC does not provide specific information about inmates’ sentences. Requesting parties may search the database using:
- Offender ID
- First name
- Last name
- Middle name
- Release date
- Age range
Are Incarceration Records Public in Virginia?
According to the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), citizens of the Commonwealth of Virginia may freely access public records generated or managed by public agencies in the state, and this includes incarceration records. Although VADOC does not provide specific details about inmate’s sentences, interested persons may request inmate records by submitting a FOIA request to the warden, superintendent, or unit manager in the facility where the inmate is incarcerated. Interested parties may send written requests to VADOC by mail at:
Virginia Department of Corrections
P. O. Box 26963
Richmond, VA 23261
Interested parties may also make FOIA requests for incarceration records by email to FOIA@vadoc.virginia.gov, through the Contact Us page on the VADOC website, or over the phone. As stated in the FOIA act, requesting parties may ask for an advance estimation of any charges that apply to the copying, printing, or documentation of the incarceration records in question. Requesting parties do not need to disclose the reason for the records requests or write the requests; however, written requests make search easier by presenting a clear description of the record. VADOC responds to FOIA requests within five (5) working days, excluding holidays and weekends.
Virginia criminal history records are also subject to FOIA, and interested members of the public may access the records. Interested parties may request criminal history records from the Criminal Justice Information Service Division (CJIS) of the Virginia State Police. Requesting parties must however note that as provided by state laws, the Virginia State Police will not provide copies of juvenile criminal records to members of the public. Interested parties must complete, sign, notarize, and submit a Criminal Record Name Search form.
Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching simpler, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for a specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:
- The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
- The location or assumed location of the record or person involved. This includes information such as the city, county, or state that person resides in or was accused in.
Third-party sites are independent from government sources, and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.
How to Look Up Jail Records in Virginia?
Jails are in the purview of local government agencies and law enforcement offices. Consequently, interested parties may contact the local government officer, such as the county sheriff or the local law enforcement officers in the facility where the offender is located or where the offender served a sentence to lookup jail records.
Virginia State Police provides access to criminal history information to individuals, private companies, and the general public. Interested parties may obtain criminal history information in Virginia by submitting a completed, and notarized Criminal History Records Check form. Persons interested in requesting arrest and charge records from the Virginia State Police must submit a Criminal History Check form with a fingerprint card.
Can Jail Records be Expunged in Virginia?
In Virginia, expungement seals jail records from public view and access. Virginia state laws (Va. Code § 19.2–392.2) provide for expungement if a person is charged with a crime but was acquitted or if the court dismisses the case. However, the criminal record of persons convicted of a crime, persons who plead ‘no contest,’ and persons who take plea bargains.
Interested parties may file for expungement by filing a petition in the court that first heard the case.