Visitor Question

What must a state or federal prison provide to a dead inmate’s family?

Submitted By: Sally (VA)

An inmate (relative) died while in prison. No written notification, death certificate, autopsy report, or cause of death was provided to the next of kin. It’s been 11 months since the death and all of this information is difficult to obtain.

What is the facility required to do and what recourse does the family have to know the cause of death?

How can we get this info and what are they required to provide? Is there an investigation into whether it was a wrongful death? What should we do?

Thanks for any information you can provide.

Disclaimer: Our response is not formal legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. It is generic legal information based on the very limited information provided. Do not rely upon the information in our response, or anywhere else on this site, when deciding the proper course of a legal matter. Always get a personalized case review from a local attorney.


Dear Sally,

The Virginia Department of Corrections is required to make available limited inmate information such as inmate location/address and anticipated release dates.

However, you also have the right to request additional information about your relative by filing an Open Records request. To do so download an “Operating Procedure” request here:

VA Department of Corrections – Operating Procedure

In the event you do not receive the information you need under the public records request, you would be best served by seeking the advice and counsel of an attorney.

Attorneys have the ability to access more information than you can. They accomplish this through filing a separate public records request and meeting with the representatives of the Department of Corrections.

If that fails, the attorney can file a lawsuit and then begin the discovery process through

subpoenas, depositions, request for production of documents, and more.

Learn more here: Jail and Prison Inmate Injury Claims

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from a licensed attorney.

Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call 888-972-0892.

We wish you the best with your claim,


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