Prison Radio

Chadwick S. Dotson 

A. David Robinson 

Rose L. Durbin 

Beth Cabell 

VADOC Central Administration 

USPS P.O. Box 26963 

Richmond, VA 23261 

Rick White, Warden 

Red Onion State Prison 

10800 H Jack Rose Hwy,  

Pound, VA 24279 

RE: VADOC’s Unconstitutional Torture of Hunger Strikers in Red Onion Prison

Dear VADOC Administrators: 

It has come to our attention that the Virginia Department of Corrections staff members and  guards at the Red Onion facility are engaging in torture of prisoners who are expressing their First  Amendment rights through a hunger strike. We have received reports that prisoners have been denied  access to water since December 30, 2023, resulting in at least one emergency hospitalization for  dehydration. After that hospitalization, further water was not provided to that prisoner, and the threat of  serious complications and possibly death from dehydration persist dangerously; this prisoner continues  to have brown, concentrated urine and has blood in his urine due to persistent dehydration. The only  way he and other prisoners can get any water is by drinking out of their toilets. This is particularly true  because this prisoner suffers from congestive heart failure and cancer. In addition to major health  complications, the lack of water has prevented prisoners from bathing themselves or keeping their  housing areas clean, leading to further threats of illness and constitutionally unsanitary living conditions.  We have further learned that these prisoners have had their bedding confiscated and are being detained  in cells where the temperature has been dropped low to produce inhumanely cold living conditions. In  addition, their property has been confiscated, so that they cannot share details of this unconstitutional  torture with their loved ones, lawyers, or other members of the community. Each of these decisions has  been made at the direction of the Hunger Strike Management Committee, comprised of the following  members of VADOC and Red Onion leadership: Warden Rick White, Health Services Administrator D. Trent, Senior Mental Health Clinician E. Creech, Mental Health Clinician J. Monihan, and Chief of  Security Major Hall. 

We would be shocked if VADOC Administrators did not already understand the illegality and unconstitutionality of these actions. But it appears that a reminder is more than necessary here. The  conduct described above constitutes a violation of the First and Eighth Amendments to the United States  Constitution, their corollaries under the Virginia State Constitution, the Americans with Disabilities Act,  and the Rehabilitation Act. The liability that the VADOC faces in litigation—particularly if any of these  striking prisoners die due to this torture (a likely outcome of dehydration)—is incredibly high and is a  very real risk. Not only do you risk expensive and embarassing federal litigation by continuing these  behaviors, these are precisely the types of activities that the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights  Division has been investigating in other jurisdictions. 

We write now to demand that the VADOC and Red Onion administrators immediately cease  torturing prisoners in their care who are engaging in hunger strikes. These demands include the  following items. You must provide them with running water or a consistent and safe alternative to  running water in their cells at all times. You must permit them to bathe on the same schedule as other  prisoners in your facility and as required by your policies and good medical hygiene. You must increase  the temperature in their cells to commonly accepted room temperature, and you must return their  property, including their writing materials, legal papers, and items to keep warm. You must permit them  regular access to the telephone to contact their loved ones and their attorneys.  

We have further learned that prisoner Kevin Johnson, #1007485, a prisoner detained at your  facility is being held in solitary confinement in violation of the VADOC’s policies for an emergency  transfer and without the benefit of a hearing to determine the need for his continued detention. See, e.g.,  Operating Procedure 830.5, Transfer and Institutional Reassignment. This conduct further violates the  due process clause of the federal and Virginia state constitutions. In addition to the relief demanded  above, we further demand that you immediately return Mr. Johnson to Sussex Prison, where he was last  detained in compliance with your policies.  

We are amenable to discussing your heinous and inhumane conduct and how it may be rectified  and to work with you to craft a solution that no longer tortures the individuals in your care. Please  contact me as soon as possible at the information below or in the header of this letter.  


Miriam R. Nemeth 

Deputy Litigation Director 

Cell Phone: 860-965-2330