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Why crowd rallied at this Richmond park Saturday

Posted at 11:53 PM, Jan 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-23 00:21:23-05

RICHMOND, Va. – A crowd gathered at Richmond's Monroe Park Saturday afternoon to rally for improved treatment of prisoners in Virginia.

The 5th annual Virginia Prison Justice Rally, which calls for better conditions for Virginians serving time, focused on four issues: bringing back parole in Virginia, more outside oversight in prisons and jails, a "second look" law for resentencing as well as ending solitary confinement.

David Smith, who served time in solitary confinement, said it nearly destroyed him.

"It sucked my will to live away,” Smith said. “When you are looking at four walls, you have no sense of time. When you have no physical contact with the outside world, when you can only see your loved ones through a TV screen."

Phil Wilayto with the Virginia Prison Justice Network said acknowledgment of the issues is key.

"Inhumane conditions the average person is not aware of, and we're trying to bring that awareness so that outrage can flow out from these small crowds into a larger movement and change conditions,” Wilayto said.

This year’s rally comes amid new leadership in the Commonwealth after voters elected Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin and Attorney General Jason Miyares. The GOP is also now charge in the House of Delegates.

Youngkin's administration has already hired a new parole board and promised better treatment for the families of victims' of crime.

“I want to make sure that we have a parole board that, yes, evaluates the appropriateness of granting parole, but also one that looks out for victim's rights as well,” Youngkin said in an interview last year.

There are more than 20 bills that address prisons and corrections directly.

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