Fairfax County Adult Detention Center Draws International Interest


April 26, 2012

Three weeks after a group of Danish defense lawyers toured the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center, the Sheriff’s Office welcomed a delegation from Russia on April 24 for a similar look at the facility. The tour represents a partnership between American and Russian nongovernmental organizations concerned with prison reform.

Sheriff's deputy leads Russian visitors and their interpreter through the booking area of the jail.Through an interpreter, the Russians asked questions about inmate access to attorneys, substance abuse treatment and counseling, health care, disciplinary segregation and inmate clothing. They were particularly interested in hearing about the accreditation process and how the jail is monitored by outside groups.

The Fairfax County Sheriff’s Office is accredited by the Virginia Law Enforcement Professional Standards Commission, the National Commission on Correctional Health Care, the Virginia Department of Corrections and the American Correctional Association. These programs offer the opportunity for the agency to evaluate operations against national standards and benchmarks in law enforcement and life, health and safety criteria in jail operations.

In Russia, 79 regional non-governmental supervisory committees monitor prisons, investigate prisoner abuse and advocate for prisoners’ rights. Though the Russian visitors admitted their prison system continues to be brutal, they said conditions are improving in some of the newer facilities.

The Russian visitors and sheriff’s deputies were equally surprised at the other’s limit on inmate property. Fairfax County inmates must limit their personal possessions to one storage bin, about the size of a small laundry basket, regardless of the weight. Russian law allows each inmate to have the equivalent of 100 pounds of property, without a space restriction.

The U.S. visit was sponsored by the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative, which implements legal reform programs in more than 40 countries around the world. The visit was funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, which assists countries recovering from disaster, trying to escape poverty and engaging in democratic reforms.

The Fairfax County Sheriff’s Office conducts a limited number of group tours of the Adult Detention Center by appointment only. For more information, contact Lt. Steve Elbert via email or call 703-246-3251, TTY 711.


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