Families demand information after fire reported at Greensville Correctional amid lockdown, inmate deaths

Posted at 6:15 PM, Aug 15, 2023
and last updated 2023-08-16 15:31:39-04

JARRATT, Virginia -- Amid ongoing controversies involving Greensville Correctional Center including inmate deaths, an escaped inmate, an extended lockdown, and reports of a fire, families continue to voice concerns about the safety of their loved ones.

"I just want to know if my son is okay," one mother, whose son is incarcerated at Greensville Correctional and wanted to remain anonymous, said. “I haven’t spoken to him since the 30th of July.”

For more than two weeks, ever since three inmates died from possible overdoses in late July, the prison has shut down all communication between families and their loved ones inside. While the facility has remained on lockdown, the mother said the lack of contact is driving her to tears.

“I’m lost. I’m lost for words, lost for words. I just want to cry," she said.

After CBS 6 reported on families' concerns last week, many other family members continued reaching out to CBS 6 with similar fears, saying:

  • "I am amongst the mass of concerned families worried about my loved one's condition."
  • "No one at the facility will tell us anything."
  • "Families are suffering wondering if their loved one is alive or not."

“I don't know nothing. I don't know if my son is hurt. I don't know if my son is alive," one mother told CBS 6 over the phone.
The only way inmates can communicate is through letters. Families have shared some of them with CBS 6.

One inmate's letter read:

"People are OD (overdosing) left and right here. They restricted us to our cells 24 hours a day. This is terrible. Very depressing, very sad, very annoying."

Another read:

"They have made life in here so depressing that at this point we don't have a reason not to get high and do whatever we want to do... Some people lose their mind, while others kill themselves, or stay high all day."

The inmates also complained about delays in receiving meals and commissary.

The Virginia Department of Corrections (DOC), which oversees state prisons, has dealt with several issues in recent weeks with Greensville.

After a string of inmate deaths at the prison, an inmate escaped custody from two DOC officers while receiving treatment at St. Mary's Hospital in Henrico on Saturday.

The inmate has still not been caught, and a multi-agency manhunt continues.

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Then, on Monday night as a prison lockdown extended into its second week, there were reports of a fire within the facility.

Video taken from inside showed smoke filling up a pod as alarms went off and people screamed in the background.

CBS 6 sent multiple questions to DOC Tuesday morning requesting information about how the fire started, if there were any injuries, and if there was any damage.

Officials with the agency said Wednesday afternoon that "four minor fires were set by several inmates in one housing unit" at Greensville Correctional Center at 7:45 p.m. Monday.

"The Town of Jarratt Fire Department was notified and entered the facility, but was not deployed because the fire was extinguished by a sprinkler and fire extinguisher. No injuries and only minor damage were reported," DOC officials wrote. "This incident is currently under investigation by the VADOC’s Special Investigations Unit."

Additionally, officials with the agency said they do not disclose the number of positions or vacancies at specific facilities because of safety concerns.

"Let us know how our family members are doing. Are they safe? Are they hurt? What is their condition?” one mother said. “They’re still human, and they belong to someone.”

Kyle Gibson, a spokesperson with DOC, said the agency would not be releasing the names of the inmates who recently died at the prison and that the investigations remain ongoing.

Since July 30 and 31, Gibson said there have been no additional reports of overdoses at Greensville.

Forty-five inmate deaths were reported at the prison from 2021-2023, Gibson said.

Depend on CBS 6 News and for in-depth coverage of this important local story. Anyone with more information can email to send a tip.

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