BRUNSWICK COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — A state investigation into potential overdoses and a death at Virginia’s only privately run prison is underway.
The Geo Group, a Florida-based private prison contractor, has operated Lawrenceville Correctional Center in Brunswick County since 2003. The facility is the only state prison not run by the Virginia Department of Corrections.
A spokesperson for The GEO Group confirmed Wednesday that the state’s Department of Corrections is investigating after one person incarcerated at the prison was found dead on Aug. 6.
In a statement, the spokesperson said staff at Lawrenceville recently observed several people imprisoned at the facility “who appeared to be lethargic and unresponsive.”
“Medical assistance was immediately called and the affected inmates were administered emergency care to stabilize their condition before being transported to the local hospital as a precautionary measure,” GEO Group’s statement read. “We can confirm that on August 6, 2022, an inmate was found unresponsive and passed away. We express our condolences to his family and loved ones.”
The spokesperson added that the Virginia Department of Corrections was investigating the death, but did not respond to additional questions about how many people needed medical assistance or details about drugs that could have caused the apparent overdoses.
Benjamin Jarvela, the director of communications for the Virginia Department of Corrections, confirmed a probe was underway but said the department does not comment on active investigations.
“GEO considers the health and safety of those entrusted to our care to be our primary mission and we will take any and all necessary steps to ensure that the circumstances surrounding this tragic situation are promptly and thoroughly addressed,” the company spokesperson’s statement continued.
8News has reported on concerns over staffing and conditions at Lawrenceville. GEO Group has been fined for not meeting the terms of its agreement with the department of corrections and penalized in 2020 for a lack of nurses, a doctor and a psychiatrist.
A legislative effort to ban private companies from managing state prisons was killed in a Virginia Senate committee in January 2021.
After the vote, 8News reported that nine of the 11 state senators who voted against a bill that would have abolished for-profit prison management by 2024 received campaign contributions from GEO Group before the 2021 General Assembly session. The money given to the senators’ campaigns were small fractions of their total political donations and the only lawmaker to respond to 8News for the story said he wasn’t aware of the contribution before the vote.