Question mark with jail barsIt’s official. You have made what feels like the biggest mistake of your life.  You went out with some friends, threw back a few cinnamon whiskey fireball shots, and decided you were just fine to drive home.  You had those drinks with a side of cheese fries over the span of four hours, so you cannot be too impaired to drive, right?  Now you have been convicted of a DUI and have to spend the weekend in jail. “What will jail in Fairfax County really be like?” – A question criminal defense attorneys are asked, all too often.  The answers are below, with the help of former clients who lived through, and learned from, this experience.


After court, a deputy will take you to be booked into Fairfax County's Adult Detention Center.  You will wait in a small room with a pay phone and a television until the deputies have finished booking everyone from court that day.  This can take the majority of the day.  Once the booking process is complete, you are handed a bag containing sheets, a blanket, and toiletries.  Your toiletries consist of shampoo, toothpaste and a small toothbrush, all the size of McDonald’s ketchup packets.


You will be given jail clothes as well.  You will get a fashionable jumper, a pair of shorts, a short sleeve shirt, and shoes without laces. All undergarments that are not plain white cotton will be taken from you.  The key to this is layers: layered underwear, layered socks, layered long sleeve white shirts.  Ladies, wear a white sports bra.  As you might suspect, you’ll always have a “clean” pair that way for your hopefully short stay.  Everything else will be taken away from you (jewelry, hair bands, bobby pins etc.). 

Daily Life

After you change into your jumper, you will be taken to the detention hall, where the cells are located.  You will be given your own personal cell, which consists of a bed, a shelf, and a toilet with a water fountain attached to it.  You will also be given directions on how to make your bed, when to wake up, meal times, and the basic jail culture. Breakfast is brought at approximately 5:00 A.M, and then everyone is put on lock down.  During lock down, inmates stay in their cells and the deputies check the cells for cleanliness and of course, contraband.  After lock down, you are released into to the common area, where you can watch TV, read a book provided by the jail, or socialize with other inmates.  There is also a volleyball court; however, there is no net or balls, and the court is often just used for cardio exercise. There is a pay phone; however, the line for the phone is notoriously long.  Lunch is served around 11:00 A.M and dinner is served around 4:00 P.M.  Each meal is followed by lock down and time in the common area. 

There are a couple of TVs in the common area and some books. After breakfast, you go on lock down and the common area gets cleaned. There is a cleaning schedule and the inmates basically rotate duties. I was only there for 4 days so I wasn't included on the rotation. I think it's after lock down or around that time you clean your room, then the Corrections Officer checks it. During the time I was there, there were no problems with anyone's room. 

While there is commissary available for purchase of snacks and toiletry items, inmates will only have access to commissary if they have a lengthy stay, since requests are typically made once a week. 


Surprisingly to most, the showers are very clean, as they get cleaned daily by inmates.  While the amount of shower gel given to you at booking is unimpressive, the shower rooms have a large bucket with small soap bars for the taking.  However, there are no shower shoes provided.  While there is commissary available for purchase of snacks and toiletry items, inmates will only have access to commissary if they have a lengthy stay, since requests are typically made once a week.  Therefore, many embrace unwashed hair for a weekend stay, and wash off in their cell with the fountain as they feel necessary. 

What is Jail in Fairfax County Really Like?

When asking this question, I was told, “honestly, I met some very nice ladies who were there for anything from DUI's to driving on a suspended or failure to appear to court, etc. There were not-so-nice ladies but no one comes after you or anything, but you might get dirty looks.”  

Another comment was “It definitely sucks, it's pretty demoralizing and humbling, but it goes by relatively fast.  As soon as I was picked up I got some Starbucks, took a bath and had my mom cook me a substantial and delicious meal.” 

Additionally, “if you are not going to stay long, skip the shower. It's gross, but personally I thought it would be worse to try to wash my hair with basically non-existent shampoo and to stepping into the shower with no shoes.”

And finally, “The food sucks, and I mean, it's awful. You are pretty gross because you don't have anything to clean yourself with, your hair is a mess because you can't tie it up at all.”

There you have it.  We at Greenspun Shapiro PC, will do our best to keep you out of jail; however, if you must go in, you are now more prepared. If you’ve been charged with a crime and could be facing jail time, call the attorneys at Greenspun Shapiro today to help you get the best result possible. If you have additional questions, visit Fairfax Countys frequently asked questions about Adult Detention Center or give us a call at 703-352-0100.

Anastasia T. Kranias
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A 03/21/2017 11:18 PM
Some of the deputies are nice and fair but others are dicks and there to exert control over uou. Just obey and nod because it's not worth it to get in more trouble over a miserable person. Basically, and I know it is sad but your socioeconic status at the time of your sentence will give you perks in jail as it did on the outside. Even if you're a minority, speaking what is considered perfect English will elicit help from those in chagre of you. If you are East African, they will know and you get treated differently because of your features Medial staff will more likely help you and allow you medication overrides just because you're smart enought to know the generic names, dosages,, and also if you have or had insurance. Deputies will respect you if you seem to be fron a higher socioeconic status and they can tell because of the way you speak, look, if you have all your teeth, etc. Now don't get me wrong ffx county jail sucks! BologNE sandwiches daily and cheap ones at that, horrible food, etc. Other than the boredom and same daily routine, you can get through it easily. Again this requires having access to the phone which costs money, commisary, and the ability to advocate for yourself. Most inmates will respect you if you respect them. Some will go out of their way to help you. Other than that it is jail, it sucks, most people are minorities, poor,mentally ill,and unfairly targeted by police. It's America and a fact of life.
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Lou 03/28/2017 04:39 PM
A fair warning I'd say and proof that things could be worse. Helpful for many I'm sure. Thanks.
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Chidi 03/28/2017 05:48 PM
Great Story! Thanks for sharing. If I have a criminal client in the future, you will definitely be on my short list for referrals.
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Faith Ruderfer 05/15/2018 05:45 PM
Very accurate portrayal. Book cart provides access to up to 10 books per week. Sanity saving for sure!
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Christ1224 06/05/2019 03:53 PM
I was there years ago. I'm sure it has changed a lot since 1996. I did my time (3 yrs) between the Adult Detention Center and (the then) PRC. I minded my business, gave the CO's their respect, and became a trustee. That's what helped me get through one of the worst times of my life.
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GSPC 09/16/2020 05:51 PM
We appreciate all the feedback we have received on this blog post. It is very helpful for our clients to hear and read about others' personal experiences as they prepare for a difficult time in their lives.
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