Sandra Hausman

Bureau Chief

I am the Charlottesville Bureau Chief for Virginia Public Radio, covering healthcare, the environment, politics and social issues for listeners in Washington, DC, Baltimore, Virginia Beach, Richmond and other cities across the state of Virginia. I am the winner of numerous awards from the Society of Professional Journalists, including a national prize in 2012 for reporting on fracking. I was also recognized by the Society of Environmental Journalists and am a frequent winner of Edward R. Murrow awards from the Radio, Television and Digital News Association. Before moving to Virginia, I worked in Chicago for nearly 30 years, reporting, serving as a news director, talk show producer and newscaster for NBC radio and TV, CBS radio, ABC network TV and Chicago Public Radio. I have been a fellow with the East-West Center, the Benton Broadcast Program at the University of Chicago and the International Reporting Project at Johns Hopkins. I have studied French, Russian, Dutch, Indonesian, Mandarin and Spanish, and -- alas -- have forgotten most of what I learned. I am married, have two children, belong to two book clubs and enjoy traveling.


Parole is allowed under a Virginia rule that enables the state to release people over 60 who have served at least ten years. More than a thousand inmates have been eligible under this geriatric provision, but only 40 have been released since 2001. One key question: Where would they go?

Virginia has about 30,000 inmates in state prisons, served by 14 psychiatrists. Segregation, restraining chairs and solitary confinement are other means by which mental health patients in state prisons receive treatment.

The state of Virginia spends an average of $5,300 a year per inmate for medical care in prisons, and that cost has been rising 5-7 percent per year, but taxpayers may not be getting their money’s worth, and people locked up for minor crimes could be paying with their lives.

The plight of prisoners in California has received extensive coverage since a class action lawsuit alleged bad medical care behind bars violated the U.S. Constitution. In Virginia, however, there has been little reporting on the quality of health care for about 31,000 people in state prisons.