1. Adoption
  2. Aging
  3. Child Safety
  4. Child Support
  5. Clemency
  6. Courts, Sentencing, & Legal Issues
  7. Department of Corrections
  8. Domestic Violence
  9. Driver’s License/Identification Card/Driving Record
  10. Employment
  11. Family Assistance/Emergency
  12. Financial
  13. Housing
  14. Inmate Correspondence
  15. Offenders and Ex-offenders
  16. Parenting
  17. Parole & Supervision
  18. Programs
  19. Social Services
  20. Miscellaneous
  21. Visitation


1. Adoption

Q: How can I find information about adopting a child in Virginia?

A: Agency adoption in Virginia is conducted through either public child placing agencies (e.g. county department of social services) or private agencies (licensed child-placing agencies privately owned and operated). Residents of Virginia may work with public and private agencies located in Virginia or operating outside of the state.

2. Aging

Q: Where can we find information about dealing with an aging parent or grandparent?

A: The Virginia Department of Social Services responds to the needs of seniors age 60 and over, adults with disabilities over the age of 18 and other adults with specific needs. VDSS also collaborates with the local departments of social services across the state and other local service providers to offer assistance to elderly citizens in need of protection from abuse; elder adults who require the services of adult care residences; and adults with disabilities who need help with care, transportation and nutrition services.

3. Child Safety

Q: As a parent, what information should I know about protecting my child?

A: You should be aware that many different personal, home, and school-related accidents can be prevented. Education and awareness are keys in preventing such incidents.

4. Child Support

Q: Why does the court want me to pay child support when I am not with the mother and do not see the child?

A: Once paternity has been established, a man becomes the legal father of that child. He has all of the rights and responsibilities of a man who had been married to the mother.

5. Clemency

Q: What is clemency?

A: Restoration of rights and pardons are examples of clemency. Restoration of rights restores the rights which are lost upon a felony conviction. These include the rights to vote, to run for and hold public office, to serve on juries and to serve as a Notary Public. It does not include the right to possess or transport any firearm or to carry a concealed weapon. [If the Governor restores your rights, you may petition the circuit court of the jurisdiction in which you reside for a permit to possess or carry a firearm. The court may, in its discretion and for good cause shown, grant such a petition and issue a permit.]

There are three types of pardons: simple, conditional, and absolute. All three types require the petitioner to write a letter to the governor stating why the pardon should be granted. If you have been convicted of a felony you must have your rights restored before the Governor will consider a petition for a pardon.

Q: How do offenders apply for a pardon, clemency, or restoration of civil rights?

A: There are three types of pardons: simple, conditional, and absolute. All three types require the petitioner to write a letter to the governor stating why the pardon should be granted. If you have been convicted of a felony you must have your rights restored before the Governor will consider a petition for a pardon.

6. Courts, Sentencing, & Legal Issues

Q: What is the difference with old law and new law sentencing?

A: Old Law Sentences (GCA Inmates)
Inmates who committed their offenses before January 1, 1995, may be eligible for parole consideration.

New Law Sentences (FTX Inmates)
Inmates who committed felony offenses on or after January 1, 1995 are not eligible for discretionary or mandatory parole.

Q: What is drug court about?

A: Drug treatment court programs are specialized court dockets within the existing structure of Virginia’s court system offering judicial monitoring of intensive treatment and strict supervision of addicts in drug and drug-related cases.

Q: What is the purpose of the different courts in Virginia?

A: The two levels of trial courts are the district and circuit courts. The court that most people have contact with is general district court. The general district courts handle most traffic violations, minor criminal cases and civil cases in which the amount in dispute does not exceed $15,000. The juvenile and domestic relations district court handles most matters pertaining to juveniles, custody, support and visitation of children. The circuit court is the trial court with the broadest powers in Virginia. The other state courts in Virginia are the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals. The primary function of the Supreme Court of Virginia is to review decisions of lower courts, including the Court of Appeals, from which appeals have been allowed. The Court of Appeals of Virginia is an intermediate appellate court hearing appeals from the circuit courts in criminal, traffic and domestic relations matters.

Q: Why was my loved one sentenced to the death penalty?

A: To be eligible in Virginia for the death penalty, a criminal must commit a murder under one or more special circumstances. These circumstances include robbery or attempted robbery; rape or attempted rape or sodomy, or attempted sodomy, or object sexual penetration; abduction with intent to extort money; the killing of a law enforcement officer; a multiple homicide; murder for hire; murder while incarcerated; murder of more than 1 person in a 3 year period; drug related; pregnant woman; murder victim is less than 14 by an over 21 year old perpetrator.

Q: Where can we find out about legal aid?

A: The goals of legal aid in Virginia are to resolve serious legal problems of low-income people, to promote economic and family stability, to reduce poverty through effective legal assistance, and to champion equal justice.

7. Department of Corrections

Q: What is the role of the Department of Corrections?

A: The Virginia Department of Corrections enhances public safety by providing effective programming and supervising sentenced offenders in a humane, cost-efficient manner, consistent with sound correctional principles and constitutional standards.

Q: After my loved one is sentenced, how do I find out where he/she has been sent to complete his/her sentence?

A: Information may only be released about the content of a non-security operating procedure, but not about the application of the procedure to a specific inmate or incident. The inmate’s identification number is needed in order to obtain this information; however, an inquiry can be made if the inmate’s full name, date of birth, and race are provided.

Q: What can I do to provide support and encouragement for an incarcerated offender?

A: All institutions allow visiting on Saturday, Sunday and State holidays. Inmates are permitted a minimum of one hour per visiting day with visitors, although the length of visits may be determined by activity in the visiting area such as the number of visitors on a given day; available space; or institutional staff resources.

Q: What is the legal update sheet and how does an inmate receive one?

A: A copy of the legal update cannot be requested. A legal update is generated only if a change occurs that may affect the inmate’s time to serve. At this time, the inmate is sent a copy of the new legal update.

Q: Can an inmate request to be transferred or placed in the DOC Institution closest to their home?

A: No.

Q: How does my incarcerated loved one know what will be expected of him/her after being sent to a state prison facility?

A: Once assigned to a permanent institution, the offender has access to a full range of program opportunities. A treatment plan developed by the offender’s treatment team outlines the programs deemed most appropriate to meet the offender’s needs. Program offerings can range from a fulltime therapeutic community to work programs, education/vocational programs, and medical/psychological services. An offender who refuses to participate in assigned programming becomes ineligible to earn good conduct credit.

In addition to treatment programs offered, the offender has access to religious services, recreational programs, medical services, and individual counseling services. As part of the Department of Corrections’ responsibility, the offender is also provided with food, clothing, and supervision. Offenders who work in institutional jobs are paid a small wage to provide spending money.

8. Domestic Violence

Q: Where can we find information about domestic violence that is happening in our home?

A: People from many different walks of life experience domestic violence. If you or anyone in your family is a victim of domestic violence, get help immediately. There are crisis centers with trained staff to assist you. You and your family may require additional referrals and or services. It is never your fault. When a domestic violence incident occurs, you should immediately contact law enforcement in your city or county.

9. Driver’s License/Identification Card/Driving Record

Q: What do I have to do in order to get my driver’s license?

A: To be eligible for a Virginia driver’s license, you must be a Virginia resident and be at least 16 years and three months of age. To apply for a license from the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), you will have to show proof of the following:

  • Your identity (two forms of proof if you are 19 or older)
  • Legal presence in the United States
  • Virginia residency
  • Social Security number

Q: What do I have to do in order to get my Virginia DMV ID card?

A: To apply, you need to visit a DMV customer service center and fill out the Driver’s License, Identification Card, and Voter Registration Application (form DL 1M), which is unfortunately not available online. For a child’s ID card, use the Identification Card Application for Minors, form DL5. Adults must provide proof of legal presence, two proofs of identity (one if you are under age 19), and one proof of residency. Documents to use as proof are listed in the DMV publication, Acceptable Documents for Obtaining a Driver’s License or Photo ID Card.

Your non-driver photo ID card expires at the end of the month you were born in, when you turn an age divisible by five (such as 35, 40, 45, and so forth). Renewals are $10. A child ID card expires on the child’s 16th birthday (but if you are 15 or older when you apply, you will receive an adult identification card).

Q: My license was suspended/revoked. Will I ever get it back?

A: At the end of the suspension period, you may pay a fee and get your license reinstated. A
revoked license, on the other hand, means the DMV has completely terminated your driving privilege. After the revocation period expires, you will need to apply for a new license―

Q: How do I get a copy of my driving record

A: You can obtain a copy of your own record easily online, through the mail, or by visiting a Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) customer service center in person. The fee for a copy of your driving record or vehicle record (see below) is $8. There is an additional $5 fee if you would like the copy to be certified.

10. Employment

Q: Where are the places to look for jobs?

A: You can start with your local newspaper, bulletin boards, businesses that have a “Help Wanted” sign in their windows, and telling people who you know that you are searching for employment.

These are all excellent ways to explore your options.

Q: If I get training for a job now, how do I find out about the number of openings per year and how much my salary might be?

A: Resources for job seekers and students can be found at your local Virginia Employment Commission office.

11. Family Assistance/Emergency

Q: How can I get information about the Salvation Army Angel Tree for my family?

A: Social Service agencies and schools refer needy families to The Salvation Army for help with toys, clothing and food for Christmas.

Q: Are there other agencies that help needy families?

A: The United Way is another organization that may be able to help your family. It serves families, youth, and children. They may also be able to provide access to health care, information on economic independence and self-sufficiency.

Q: Where can I find helpful resources for my family?

A: The yellow pages in the local telephone book, your local newspaper, and by dialing 211 are where you can begin looking for various types of services for your family.

Q: Who can help us if we have an aging parent, grandparent, or other relative in our home who needs constant care?

A: You and your family will need outside support when caring for an aging parent. Do not hesitate to seek guidance. Support groups may be invaluable to you. Remember to make time for yourself, even if that means just taking a walk around your neighborhood.

Q: What is Alzheimer’s Disease and where can we get help?

A: Alzheimer’s (ALZ-hy-merz) disease (AD) is a physical illness that causes changes in the brain. It is a form of dementia (di-MEN-shuh). Dementia affects a person’s memory, mood, and behavior.
Alzheimer’s disease usually affects people over 65. A person with this disease has trouble remembering, speaking, learning, making judgments, and planning. Some people feel restless and moody. It may take many years for Alzheimer’s disease to get worse.

Q: Where can I obtain vital records in Virginia?

A: Versions of vital records order forms as well as more information are available at the following URLs:

Q: How do I contact my incarcerated loved one in the event of a family emergency?

A: Because inmates are sometimes transferred from one facility to another within our system,
this inmate locator has been developed to help you locate an inmate who is currently incarcerated in our system.

Q: Can my incarcerated family member visit a relative in the hospital or attend a funeral?

A: Death Bed/Funeral Visits – Permission for a jail inmate to attend a funeral or to visit a dying relative must be obtained from the jail, not the Department of Corrections.

Q: Is there a charge to the incarcerated person or his family?

A: It is general practice that the family must bear the cost of providing security and transportation of the inmate for this purpose. Specific details may be obtained from individual jails.

Q: Where can we find help after a state-wide emergency or natural disaster?

A: The Salvation Army is one of the first agencies to respond when disaster strikes. The Salvation Army is known for going into places where others might not be comfortable. Whether it is in impoverished neighborhoods, prisons, hospital rooms or nursing homes, The Salvation Army is there to meet people at the point of need. It is this brave approach that takes The Salvation Army into the immediate scene of natural disasters.

12. Financial

Q: Who should I contact for financial assistance?

A: Programs such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), food stamps, Medicaid and others are managed and implemented by Virginia Department of Social Services, and administered through 120 local departments of social services that serve citizens throughout the state
Auxiliary grants, child care, disaster assistance, energy assistance (fuel, crisis, cooling, weatherization), food stamps, general relief, medical assistance (Medicaid or FAMIS), and caregivers grants.

The Salvation Army is serving more people in the USA than ever before.

13. Housing

Q: How can I get information about buying a home?

A: The U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) sponsors housing counseling agencies throughout the country that can provide advice on buying a home, renting, defaults, foreclosures, credit issues, and reverse mortgages.

Q: What is Habitat for Humanity about?

A: Habitat for Humanity International is a nonprofit, ecumenical Christian housing ministry. HFHI seeks to eliminate poverty housing and homelessness from the world, and to make decent shelter a matter of conscience and action. Habitat invites people of all backgrounds, races and religions to build houses together in partnership with families in need.

Q: Who do I contact if I need housing or housing information?

A: A variety of organizations are available for you to get information about housing. It depends upon your needs. You and your family might need temporary shelter, or you might me looking for permanent housing. A budget will be helpful when deciding where you want to live and how much you can afford to spend.

14. Inmate Correspondence

Q: Can inmates receive telephone calls?

A: No. Division Operating Procedure 855 permits inmates to place only operator-assisted collect telephone calls on the Inmate Telephone System.

Q: How do I send money to my incarcerated loved one for commissary?

A: Monies sent to inmates may be in the form of certified or cashier’s checks, government checks, money orders and refund checks from businesses.

Q: Can I send personal property items to an inmate through the mail?

A: No. Family members are not allowed to send anything to inmates other than cards, letters, or money orders.

15. Offenders and Ex-offenders

Q: What is Offender Aid and Restoration (OAR)?

A: See links below.

Q: What is Virginia C.U.R.E. and how can it help our family?

A: Virginia C.U.R.E., is a non-profit, statewideorganization. C.U.R.E. members create a collective force to bring positive attention to issues relating to prisoners and the families impacted by the criminal justice system.

Q: Where can I find information about performing community service?

A: OAR is the leading provider of offender services in Arlington, Alexandria and Falls Church, Virginia. Offender Aid and Restoration offers supervised community service.

People, Inc. offers comprehensive community service programs that address all areas of need in the community including health care, shelter and support for domestic violence victims, education activities for children, senior services, support for ex-offenders re-entering the community, and workforce development for former welfare recipients.

16. Parenting

Q: How can I find answers to questions about paying child support?

A: You can start looking for answers by calling your local Child Support Enforcement office. They will arrange an appointment for you. Be prepared to answer many questions.

Q: I am pregnant/have a newborn and need information on breastfeeding. Who can help?

A: Proper nutrition, health, and fitness are all important aspects for a mother-to-be or new mother to learn. Your physician, the Department of Social Services, and your local public library are all available to help.

Q: What rules must we follow when driving with a newborn or a baby?

A:Car seats have been proven to save lives and reduce injuries — a critical fact when you consider that car accidents remain the leading cause of death in kids ages 1-14. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), four out of five car seats are being used incorrectly. The most common mistakes? Choosing the wrong type of car seat, installing it improperly, and securing a child incorrectly.

Q: Are there agencies that will give us a car seat for our newborn?

A: There are agencies in Virginia that give free car seats. Low income can qualify you for this service.

Q: Where can we find birth control information for our teenage children?

A: It is crucial for parents to educate their children about sexual activity and teenage pregnancy. The statistics in this country are alarming. Your local health department, private physician, and public library are invaluable resources for finding the information that you and your family need.

Q: Who do I contact if I want information about home-schooling my children?

A: Home-schooling is legal in the United States. Laws that regulate it vary considerably from state to state and have been known to change from year to year. Parents can’t simply withdraw their children from school without notifying the proper authorities. In many states, the government must approve of lesson plans and be provided with updates on each child’s progress, including the marks they receive on standardized tests.

Q: How can I make sure that my children are safe when they use the internet?

A: Today’s technology has made it possible for us to use computers to access just about anyone and anything that we want. Modern technology has also allowed for predators to access our children. Just as one would teach their children about playground safety and fire safety, parents should also teach their children about safety in cyberspace.

Q: What happens when a mother gives birth while incarcerated?

A: The Virginia Department of Corrections provides this care by transporting pregnant females to state teaching hospitals to receive the necessary medical attention. In addition, a plan is prepared prior to the birth in coordination with the Department of Social Services for subsequent care of the newborn infant. The infants are not allowed to return to prison with the mother.

Q: How is paternity determined after my child is born?

A: In Virginia there are three primary ways to establish paternity for a child born to a mother who has never been married. Both parents can sign a legal document to establish the paternity of the child. This document is called an Acknowledgment of Paternity. Another way to establish paternity is by using the services of your local child support office. Finally paternity may be established through a court proceeding.

Q: What does it take to become an adoptive or foster parent?

A: There are age requirements – you must be at least 21-25 years old. You do not have to be married in order to adopt or foster a child. One must be responsible, healthy, and have a steady income. You will be screened and a criminal background check will be conducted. A safe, clean home environment is required. Training must be completed prior to adopting or fostering a child.

Q: Are there classes for expectant parents?

A: Yes. Numerous organizations provide classes for expectant mothers and fathers. Depending upon your desires, you can find classes for breastfeeding, delivery, and infant child care. There may be a hotline in your are where you can contact someone to answer questions that you have.

Q: Where do we go if we have a teenage daughter who is pregnant?

A: 681_1159.asp

Q: How can we find information about dealing with a teenage son?

A: puberty.html

Q: Where can we find help for our special needs child?

A: Depending upon the needs of the child, you may contact one of the following agencies. A referral to another agency might be necessary.

17. Parole & Supervision

Q: What is parole supervision?

A: When an offender is released on parole he or she agrees to obey a set of rules in order to provide on-going contact, the parolee is placed under supervision of a Probation and/or Parole Officer. The parole officer is responsible for making sure that the person who has been released, complies with all rules of supervision. The parole officer also assists the ex-offender with resources for successful completion of supervision.

Q: What is the difference between discretionary and mandatory parole?

A: Discretionary parole occurs when the Virginia Parole Board grants parole before the offender completes his or her sentence. Parole Board members grant discretionary parole when after carefully reviewing all available information, they determine that an offender is suitable to be paroled and that his or her release is in the best interest of the public.Mandatory parole, on the other hand, is the automatic release of an offender six months before completion of his or her sentence. Unlike discretionary parole decisions, the Parole Board does not vote on this type of parole , as it is established by law. All further parole references apply only to discretionary parole. Special conditions can be imposed upon mandatory release, if the Board deems that additional supervision is required for the release.

Q: Where are probation and parole offices in Virginia?

A: Probation and parole offices are located throughout the state. Probationers and parolees will need to contact the office nearest your home to schedule an intake.

Q: What rules apply to offenders on probation or parole?

A: There are standard conditions that apply to each offender. There are also special conditions that apply to certain offenders.

Q: What should I do to leave the state of Virginia while on parole supervision?

A: The Department of Corrections has an interstate compact agreement with other states. An inmate can request to serve his/her sentence in another state’s correctional system, provided that state has an interstate compact agreement with Virginia. Once the request is approved and if the other state has space and an inmate to exchange, the transfer will be made. All applicable fees for transportation to another state are the responsibility of the inmate

Q: Do offenders appear before parole board members while incarcerated?

A: Parole examiners interview with offenders in person, not the parole board members.

Q: As a citizen, can I have a meeting with a representative of the Parole Board or provide information concerning an inmate’s parole?

A: If you are the victim of a crime, family member of a crime victim, or a concerned citizen, you may wish to have some input into the parole consideration of the convicted individual. You may also wish to know when the offender will be eligible for such parole consideration and his or her scheduled release date. The Virginia Parole Board’s Victim Input Program entitles and encourages you to make your views known, as well as request information on the parole status of an individual.

Q: While still incarcerated, can a person lose their parole once it has been granted?

A: Yes. If an inmate is convicted of a law violation, or is found to have violated one or more
institutional rules, or where other problems exist before release to parole, the Board may
suspend its granted action, and may thereafter rescind the grant decision to take such other
action as deemed appropriate.

Q: What residential options does my incarcerated loved one have?

A: Adult Residential Programs are used by the Parole Board as a Condition of Parole and by Probation & Parole Officers as an intermediate sanction. Offenders receive supervised housing, random urinalysis testing, life skills, and basic counseling.

Q: When and how can a parolee successfully complete his or her sentence obligation?

A: If after a reasonable length of time, a parolee continues to show that he or she can obey all of the rules of parole, the person will be reviewed for discharged from parole supervision. At that time, he or she will receive a certificate stating that current sentence and parole obligations to the Commonwealth have been met.

Q: Can a Parole Board decision be appealed or reconsidered?

A: Yes. An offender has the option to appeal a Parole Board’s decision when errors in fact, unknowingly considered during the review process, are afterwards identified. The Board reconsiders cases when significantly new information is presented that was unavailable to the Parole Board when the case was originally reviewed.

Q: What factors are used to determine if an offender is suitable for parole?

A: In making parole decisions the Parole Board is guided by several factors including the offender’s current offense, number of institutional infractions, previous criminal record, results of personal interviews, educational/vocational and behavioral development during imprisonment, release plans, and information received from family, friends, victims, and others.

Q: How does an inmate become eligible to participate in the Home Electronic Monitoring Program?

A: If an inmate wishes to be considered for this program the Sheriff or Regional Jail Administrator must request to have the inmate transferred back to the jail. Home Electronic Monitoring is then administered by the jails.

Q: Can an inmate earn good time credits while on Home Electronic Monitoring?

A: No. An inmate earns no good time credits while participating in the HEM program. While the inmate is on HEM his good time credit earning level will be at the lowest level, earning zero (0) days for each day served.

18. Programs

Q: What types of events are available to family and friends of incarcerated persons?

A: The 2007 Family Day picnic will be held at Pocahontas State Park, near Richmond, Virginia, on Saturday, June 2.

Q: Are there programs available to children of incarcerated parents?

A: Milk and Cookies is a program just for children with incarcerated parents. It is conducted in schools during the school day. All God’s Children Camp is a week-long overnight summer camp for children in Virginia who have an incarcerated mother. Assisting Families of Inmates can provide additional information and camp applications.

Q: Is there a parenting class for my incarcerated loved one?

A: Moms, Inc. and Dads, Inc. are parenting classes taught in the Department of Correctional Education schools at certain facilities.

Q: Can my loved one go to church or religious services while incarcerated?

A: Yes. Volunteers of all denominations are at the heart of religious activities in Department of Corrections institutions. Every week hundreds of volunteers enter over 40 prisons throughout the Commonwealth to preach, teach, sing with and otherwise minister to the spiritual needs of the inmate population.

Q: Does my incarcerated loved one have access to school and training?

A: Yes. The Department of Correctional Education (DCE) provides educational services in adult and youth correctional facilities throughout Virginia. All academic and career and technical education teachers meet state certification and endorsement standards.

Q: What is Project SOAR?

A: Project SOAR (Supporting Offenders After Release) is a volunteer partnership between the Virginia Department of Corrections and the faith community. The purpose of Project SOAR is to help offenders become productive citizens and reduce the likelihood that they will return to prison. Project SOAR (Supporting Offenders After Release) is organized to help offenders become productive members of society through Re-entry Life Skills training, mentoring and referrals to necessary community resources.

19. Social Services

Q: How do I contact the Department of Social Services in my area?

A: URLs (alphabetized):

20. Miscellaneous

Q: Where can I take CPR or First Aid classes?

A: American Red Cross first aid, CPR and AED programs are designed to give you the confidence to
respond in an emergency situation with skills that can save a life.

Q: Who can help us if we have an aging parent, grandparent, or other relative in our home who needs constant care?

A: Relatives, friends, neighbors, and professionals will assist you greatly. It is important to have time for yourself and your family when caring for an aging relative.

Q: Where can I obtain vital records throughout the U.S.?

A: Each state has an office for Vital Statistics.

Q: Is there a directory specifically for offenders and their families?


Q: Who do I contact when I need legal assistance and information?

A: URLs:

Q: Does my incarcerated family member have the opportunity to attend religious services, or getinformation about his/her faith?


Q: What does an inmate do when he/she is on a medical or religious diet?


Q: Why does my incarcerated loved one have to complete the Therapeutic Community Program?


Q: Where can we find information about safe handling of food?


21. Visitation

Q: How can I visit my incarcerated family member if I do not have transportation?

A: Call (804) 643-2401 to schedule an intake appointment.

Q: Which prisons are included in this transportation service?


Q: If I visit an inmate will I be searched?


Q: How can I get directions to a correctional facility?


Q: What dress code information should I know before visiting my loved one?