Fairfax County Adult Detention Center Draws International Interest

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 for a similar look at the facility.

The tour represents a partnership between American and Russian nongovernmental organizations concerned with prison reform.

Lots of questions

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.

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 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.