Richmond Anarchist Black Cross

On the Richmond City Jail

In the context the possibility of a new Richmond City Jail, the Anarchist Black Cross must make it clear that we are against the existence of all jails and prisons. We believe that no new jails or prisons should ever be constructed, and that the old ones should be emptied and dismantled.

Jails and prisons are tools used to oppress people largely based on their race and class. They exist to intimidate and coerce into passivity all who are not incarcerated. Jails and prisons exist to perpetuate slavery (see the Thirteenth amendment which allows for the slavery of incarcerated individuals) and to make profit for the capitalists who have created industries around incarceration.

The Richmond City Jail has a long history of being overcrowded, inhumane, dangerous, and unhealthy. The new Sheriff prides himself on not providing inmates with the medical care that they need. Bails are set too high to be accessible to many of Richmond’s most destitute. As a result, Richmond City Jail has killed many inmates over the years. Five inmates of Richmond City Jail died in 2010 alone.

The solution to the overcrowded, inhumane, hot as hell jail is NOT the construction of a new larger jail. A new facility with more beds will only encourage more arrests to fill the space.

Richmond City Jail should never have been allowed to become overcrowded. Inmates over its capacity should be released immediately, which is what the Richmond Anarchist Black Cross called for in July of 2010 when Kerry Wayne Bennett and Grant R. Sleeper died from the heat. The Sheriff’s department is clearly too callous and incapable to keep people alive. They should not be entrusted with a larger population and they should never be allowed to exceed the official capacity of any facility. A new jail facility will not solve the problems of the old facility.

Non-violent offenders should be released. No questions asked. If proper medical care, therapy, educational services, clothing, bedding, food and water can not be provided then there is no excuse for not immediately releasing all of the inmates. We believe that there will never be proper medical care, therapy, educational services, clothing, bedding, food, shelter, and water given to inmates in any jail or prison in Virginia- therefore the inmates should all be immediately released.

The current Richmond City Jail facility is in obvious disrepair. It is faulty to assume that it is just the physical structure in need of renovation or even rebuilding. The bureaucracy of the Sheriff’s department and all departments responsible for the health and education and care of people incarcerated by the City of Richmond are inefficient, inhumane, and unacceptable.

The construction of a larger facility will not solve overcrowding. It has been clearly demonstrated time and time again that larger facilities almost immediately become as overcrowded as the facilities they are built to replace. In the context of jail as business (because inmates are charged for their time in jail), it makes sense for those in power to push for a larger jail. More inmates, with the same percentage of overcrowding (carefully managed to prevent that critical level of overcrowding at which the inmates say FUCK THIS and do something about it) equals a higher profit margin.

The deaths of numerous inmates over the past two years were completely avoidable, even within the context of the current facility. Death by heat exposure and exhaustion are not quick, and the fact that there have been ANY is plenty of evidence of gross negligence on the part of the sheriff’s department. A new facility will not make jail guards, jail medical staff, or jail administration actually give a flying fuck about inmate’s health. As long as they are able to sweep inmate deaths under the rug and explain them as ‘unfortunate accidents,’ and there is no public outcry, no resistance to the institutional brutality and neglect that characterizes our prison system, NOTHING will ever change.

The construction of a new “updated, state of the art” jail facility is merely an attempt to gloss over the function of jails as a tool of social control and a source of extorted income for the city. Building a larger facility only assures more arrests, and a greater rate of incarceration for petty crimes. Building a “state of the art,” modern-looking facility only allows the actual function of the jail to be less painfully obvious to the casual passerby.

Conversations about alternatives to prisons, prisoner support, and creating a society free of incarceration go beyond the subject matter of this particular statement, but are areas that the Richmond Anarchist Black Cross works on.

If you’re interested in alternatives to prisons, prisoner support, or creating a society free of incarceration, the Richmond Anarchist Black Cross can be contacted at and previous statements from the Richmond Anarchist Black Cross and information about meetings can be found online at

The Richmond Anarchist Black Cross will continue to advocate and fight for the destruction of all jails, prisons, and systems of institutional domination within our society until all of us are free.

– The Richmond Anarchist Black Cross

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