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Frequently Asked Questions

Found on the Virginia Department of Corrections website:

  1. How can I send money to an inmate?
  2. Can inmates receive phone calls?
  3. Can I send personal property items to an inmate?
  4. If I visit an inmate will I be searched?
  5. How can I get directions to a correctional facility?
  6. Where can I get specific information regarding an inmate’s location, time computation and classification assignment?
  7. How long does it take to bring an inmate into the DOC after sentencing?
  8. Does the sentencing order have to come from the court?
  9. Can a relative request that an inmate be transferred to the DOC institution closest to their home?
  10. How does an inmate participate in the Home Electronic Monitoring Program?
  11. How can an inmate request a copy of his/her “legal” update?
  12. Why can’t an inmate transfer as soon as an institutional housing assignment is made?
  13. What is the difference between discretionary and mandatory parole?
  14. What can I do to provide support and encouragement for an incarcerated offender?
  15. Do offenders appear before Parole Board members?
  16. What is parole supervision?
  17. As a citizen, can I have a meeting with a representative of the Parole Board?
  18. Can a person be returned to prison while on parole?
  19. When and how can a parolee successfully complete his or her sentence obligation?
  20. Can a Parole Board decision be appealed or reconsidered?
  21. How do offenders apply for a pardon, clemency or the restoration of their civil rights?
  22. How can I contact the Secretary of the Commonwealth?

Q: How can I send money to an inmate?

A: According to Division Operating Procedure 851, monies sent to inmates may be in the form of certified or cashier’s checks, government checks, money orders and refund checks from businesses. Cash and personal checks are prohibited. Funds received will be added to the inmate’s account, maintained at the institution, and will be dispersed to the inmate in the form of debits from his/her account. Inmates are not allowed to possess monies or other negotiable instruments.

Q: Can inmates receive phone calls?

A: No. Division Operating Procedure 855 permits inmates to place only operator-assisted collect telephone calls on the Inmate Telephone System. Further, inmates are only permitted to call persons on their pre-approved call list. This list is limited to fifteen (15) numbers, including attorney numbers. Any telephone number placed on an inmate’s call list must be physically located at the subscriber’s address as shown on the billing statement. Calls placed by the inmate must be directly to, and terminate at, the number on the call list. Three-way calls, conference calls, and call forwarding are prohibited.

Q: Can I send personal property items to an inmate?

A: No. Division Operating Procedure 856-7.7 states: “Inmates may purchase personal items in the commissary or from approved mail order sources… Credit, C.O.D., and third party payments are prohibited. Personal property may not be received by mail or delivery service from any source other than an approved mail order vendor. Property may not be received from visitors or any other source.”

Q: If I visit an inmate will I be searched?

A: Yes. As regulated by Division Operating Procedure 854, inmates and visitors shall be searched in accordance with security procedures.

Q: How can I get directions to a correctional facility?

A: Each institution has a Web page that includes directions to the facility - see Facilities on the website at www.vadoc.state.va.us.

Q: Where can I get specific information regarding an inmate’s location, time computation and classification assignment?

A: The DOC Inmate Locator is designed to identify the location of currently incarcerated offenders. Additional Inmate record information can be requested via an e-mail inquiry to clasrec@vadoc.state.va.us.

Q: How long does it take to bring an inmate into the DOC after sentencing?

A: Inmates who are state responsible are normally brought into the Department of Corrections within 60 days after the receipt of their final sentencing order from the sentencing courts.

Q: Does the sentencing order have to come from the court?

A: Yes. The Department of Corrections must receive an original copy of the court order directly from the sentencing court before the time computation process can begin.

Q: Can a relative request that an inmate be transferred to the DOC institution closest to their home?

A: No. The inmate may make this request at the time of his/her initial assignment or annual review. Provided the inmate meets the specific criteria for the institution requested and if there is space available, the request will be taken under consideration.

Q: How does an inmate participate in the Home Electronic Monitoring Program?

A: If an inmate wishes to be considered for this program the request must come from the Sheriff or Regional Jail Administrator to have the inmate transferred back to the jail. Home Electronic Monitoring (HEM) is then administered by the jails. (Note: Home Electronic Monitoring is not administered by DOC adult institutions.)

Q: How can an inmate request a copy of his/her “legal” update?

A: A copy of the legal update cannot be requested. A legal update is generated only if a change occurs that may affect the inmate’s time to serve. At this time, the inmate is sent a copy of the new legal update.

Q: Why can’t an inmate transfer as soon as an institutional housing assignment is made?

A: The Transportation Section of the Classification and Records Unit schedules inmate transfers on a priority basis. Inmates with greater security needs, will be scheduled for movement first. Transportation also must take into consideration factors such as bed availability and institutional population management.

Q: What is the difference between discretionary and mandatory parole?

A: Discretionary parole occurs when the Parole Board grants parole before the offender completes his or her sentence. Parole Board members grant discretionary parole when, after carefully reviewing all available information, they determine that an offender is suitable to be paroled. Mandatory parole is the automatic release of an offender six months before completion of his or her sentence. Unlike discretionary parole decisions, the Parole Board does not vote on this type of parole as it is established by law. Special conditions can be imposed upon mandatory release, if the Board deems that additional supervision is required for the release.

Q: What can I do to provide support and encouragement for an incarcerated offender?

A. You can encourage them to obey the rules set forth by DOC institutions. These rules are in place to ensure safety and security for all inmates and staff. You may also want to encourage the offender to use his or her time wisely by becoming involved in school, treatment programs and work activities. You may write and/or visit on a regular basis, or you can occasionally contact the offender’s counselor to discuss a specific concern. Please be informed that Department of Corrections employees are prohibited from releasing details about any ongoing investigation or an inmate’s involvement in a specific incident. You may request information about the content of non-security operating procedures, but not about the application of these procedures to any specific inmate. If information is needed about such procedures, contact the Warden/ Superintendent’s Office at the inmate’s assigned facility.

Q: Do offenders appear before Parole Board members?

A: No. Those offenders who are eligible are interviewed by Parole Examiners. In accordance with the Parole Board policy, normally only the Parole Examiner, the offender, and his or her institutional counselor are present. Parole Examiners conduct interviews, rather than Parole Board members, to assist in expediting the decision-making process.

Q: What is parole supervision?

A: When an offender is released on parole he or she agrees to adhere to a set of rules, which in some cases may include special conditions, such as providing urine samples for drug testing and attending substance abuse treatment. In order to maintain regular contact, the parolee is placed under supervision of a Probation and Parole Officer. The officer's job is to monitor a parolee’s compliance with all the rules in the parole release agreement, to work with the offender on identifying crucial needs, and generally to assist the parolee re-enter society.

Q: As a citizen, can I have a meeting with a representative of the Parole Board?

A: Yes. Individuals desiring an appointment with a representative of the Parole Board should contact the Parole Board's Appointment Secretary either by letter or by telephone. Appointments should be scheduled prior to the date an offender is scheduled to be interviewed. The main purpose of a Board appointment is to allow the public the opportunity to express their views and to provide input into the parole process. If you cannot personally attend a Board appointment and choose to write instead, letters must be received no later than five working days following an offender's interview in order to be considered in conjunction with the year's parole
review.

Q: Can a person be returned to prison while on parole?

A: Yes. If a parolee is convicted of a new offense or violates the parole agreement, the Parole Board can have his or her parole revoked and the offender returned to prison.

Q: When and how can a parolee successfully complete his or her sentence obligation?

A: If, after a reasonable length of time, a parolee continues to show that he or she can obey all of the rules of parole, the person will be reviewed for discharge from parole supervision. At that time, he or she will receive a certificate stating that current sentence and parole obligations to the Commonwealth have been met.

Q: Can a Parole Board decision be appealed or reconsidered?

A: Yes. An offender has the option to appeal a Parole Board's decision when errors in fact, unknowingly considered during the review process, are afterwards identified. The Board reconsiders cases when significant new information is presented that was unavailable to the Parole Board when the case was originally reviewed.

Q: How do offenders apply for a pardon, clemency or the restoration of their civil rights?

A: These are handled through the Secretary of the Commonwealth who has established the processes and procedures.

Q: How can I contact the Secretary of the Commonwealth?

A: Written correspondence:
Office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth
830 East Main Street, 14th Floor
Richmond, Virginia 23219
website: www.commonwealth.virginia.gov/Clemency/clemency.cfm

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