The Virginia Department of Corrections is facing criticism for withholding public records related to inmate complaints about conditions at the Marion Correctional Treatment Center. The department has refused to release documents that include allegations of hypothermia treatment and claims of torture and beatings by guards.
The request for records was made as part of a lawsuit filed on behalf of Charles Givens, who died last year at the facility. The department cited an exemption in the state’s open records law that deals with records of incarcerated individuals to justify withholding the documents. The lawsuit alleges that Givens, who was intellectually disabled, was tortured and beaten by correctional officers before being found unresponsive in his cell. Medical records reviewed by the Associated Press indicate that Givens had been treated for hypothermia multiple times in the year leading up to his death. A special grand jury impaneled last year found Givens’ death to be suspicious and described living conditions in the prison sector housing mentally ill inmates as “unsuitable” and “inhumane.”
The FBI is currently investigating Givens’ death, and the Department of Corrections has declined to comment on the investigation. The correctional officers named in the lawsuit have denied the allegations. The Virginia Department of Corrections, as well as the office of state Attorney General Jason Miyares, have withheld additional documents related to Givens’ death.