Author Archives: Dick Hall-Sizemore

Recidivism: The Rest of the Story, Part 2–Explanations for Increase

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

A previous post discussed how Virginia’s most recent recidivism rate was an increase over the prior year’s rate. The Department of Corrections (DOC) offers two major possible explanations for the increases in recidivism: more technical violators and more “jail-only” offenders.

Technical violators. A recidivist who is a technical violator is someone who has been returned to prison, not due to having committed a new crime, but because he has violated one or more conditions of his probation and the judge has chosen to revoke his probation and reimpose part or all of what remains of his suspended sentence.

The percentage of technical violators making up the recidivist cohort had decreased in recent years to below 10% in FY 2013. However, in FY 2014, the percentage more than doubled to 22.3% and has remained at that level.  After a slight dip in FY 2015, it increased by more than two percentage points in FY 2016. Continue reading

Recidivism: The Rest of the Story, Part 1 — How Large Is It?

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

Recently, Governor Northam issued a press release applauding the Department of Corrections’ (DOC) most recent recidivism rate of 23.9% and noting it was one of the lowest in the country. All that is true and is highly commendable, but, as Paul Harvey used to say, “Now, for the rest of the story.”

Source: Virginia Dept. of Corrections

While a recidivism rate of 23.9% is excellent, it is actually an increase over the most previous rate of 23.1%. Although DOC likes to say that the most recent rate is “only” 0.8 of a percentage point more than the previous year, over the last four years, as shown by the accompanying graph, the recidivism rate rose from 22.4% to 23.9%, an increase of 1.5 percentage points.

Furthermore, although Virginia’s rate was among the lowest recidivism rates in the country (second lowest), for each of the four years prior to the last, the state had the lowest rate. In summary, although Virginia has an excellent recidivism rate, the rate has been increasing and Virginia has slipped a notch in relation to other states. Continue reading

Another Bit of Nonsense in the Cost of Health Care

Colonoscopy
Image credit: Johns Hopkins University

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

I just had an experience that illustrates the bewildering complexity of the finances of the American health care system.

Yesterday, I had a colonoscopy. I’m a veteran of this procedure, having had several because there is a history of colon cancer in my family. (No polyps this time, by the way.)

The protocol for the dreaded “prep” time has changed. No longer does the patient have to consume a gallon or two of sickening sweet liquid (others who have had this procedure know what I am talking about). Now, one has to take 24 pills in two stages between 6 p.m. the night before and 6 a.m. the day of the procedure, along with a lot of water. Continue reading

Agriculture in Great Falls?

Youngkin stables
Photo credit: Fairfax County Planning Commission

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

Well, it seems as if rich folks in leftist-leaning Albemarle are not the only rich folks availing themselves of real estate tax breaks. The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports today that Glenn Youngkin and his wife have saved 95% of their real estate taxes on their horse “farm” in Great Falls, the posh area of Fairfax County.

Rather than get conservation easements, which often are perpetual, the Youngkins got their property designated as an “agricultural district” by Fairfax County. Such designation lowered the real estate taxes on the property by 95%, saving them over $150,000 over the last two years. One of the conditions for the designation is that the Youngkins agreed not to develop the property for eight years. Continue reading

Constitutionality of Vaccination Mandate

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

There has been much opposition expressed on this blog regarding UVa, and, by extension, other higher education institutions, requiring students and staff to be vaccinated against COVID as a requirement for attending class in the fall.  The policy has been said to be, among other things, unconstitutional.

Not surprisingly, a judge has spoken. Today, a federal district judge ruled in favor of Indiana University in a suit brought challenging that university’s vaccination mandate. The court said, “The Fourteenth Amendment permits Indiana University to pursue a reasonable and due process of vaccination in the legitimate interest of public health for its students, faculty and staff.”

Of course, this is only one judge and it is not unusual for judges in different parts of the country to rule differently on similar points of law. Also, a district court’s ruling is generally applicable only in that district, but the case is likely to have some precedential value elsewhere.

The challengers have vowed to take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

A Genuine Free Lunch

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

Some people commenting on my recent post regrading the G3 Program for community colleges challenged my characterization of it as being a free community college education for some people. They contended that it really was not free; the student may not have to pay tuition, but the money for the program came from taxpayers. Therefore, it was not free because taxpayers were paying for it. That is a valid argument.

But I am here to tell you that there really is a free state program for some Virginia residents, which I suspect not many people are aware of. If you are at least 60 years old and have lived in Virginia for at least one year, you can take up to three courses per semester in a Virginia institution of higher education and not have to pay any tuition or fees. (Sec. 23.1-639 et seq., Code of Virginia) Continue reading

Even With a New Name, Community College Can Be Free

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

Lost in the discussion of last year’s General Assembly actions and the current discussion of renaming community colleges is the restoration of funding for Governor Northam’s “Get Skilled, Get a Job, Give Back” (G3) program. This program will provide a free community college education for low-and middle-income students enrolled in “high demand” programs.

To be eligible, a student’s family income must be equal to or lower than 400 percent of the federal poverty level. According to the Virginia Community College System, “As a rule of thumb, students could qualify for G3 support if they come from a family of four with a household income of $106,000 per year.” The student must also be enrolled in one of numerous, designated “high demand” programs and taking at least six credit hours per semester. (A list of the high demand programs can be found here.) Continue reading

On the Renaming of Community Colleges

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

A school task force has recommended that John Tyler Community College be renamed Brightpoint Community College.

I can understand getting rid of the John Tyler name. He was a slaveholder and a member of the Confederate Congress. He also happened to be a former president of the United States, but only because William Henry Harrison died from pneumonia after a month in office. Tyler was not a founding father and his presidency was undistinguished.

But Brightpoint? I’m sorry, but that is a stupid name. It sounds like one of those made-up names for banks. Continue reading

What Goes Up Stays Up

By Dick Hall-Sizemore

One of the explanations for the increase in the cost of new housing recently has been the surge in the costs of raw materials. Builders have been forced to pass those increased costs on to buyers.

Indeed, prices of materials, such as lumber, did increase significantly this last year, reaching a high during the spring. However, with supply chains opening up after the pandemic has eased, those lumber prices have decreased by about two-thirds. According to the theory, then, builders would be passing those savings on to buyers in the from of lower prices.

But, that does not seem to be the case. According to a Wall Street Journal article (yes, I know it will surprise some of you that I subscribe to the WSJ), builders are opting to keep prices where they are, thereby increasing their profit margins. Continue reading

Psst! We Have Some Beds for You

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

Something just does not seem right about this.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports today that the state has temporarily halted admissions to its mental health hospitals. In addition to being overcrowded, on Friday, Central State Hospital in Petersburg had more patients than beds, the hospitals have lost a significant number of staff and are struggling to replace them after COVID outbreaks in the hospitals.

But, wait! The private sector is coming to the rescue! The Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association has announced that a private health system (unidentified) will make available 58 unused mental health beds (40 for adolescents and 18 for adults) to the state. Oh, yes, and, in exchange for $8.5 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act funding to pay for staff for those beds.

I could understand the state contracting with the private sector on a per diem basis to take in these patients. But, a $8.5 million payment up front seems a bit brassy. The state would be better off using that $8.5 million to pay recruitment and retention bonuses to bolster the staff in its own facilities.

What’s Youngkin Afraid Of?

Judy Woodruff
Photo credit: PBS

By Dick Hall-Sizemore

Glenn Youngkin, the Republican nominee for governor has declined to participate in what has become a traditional kick-off for gubernatorial candidates, a debate at the annual meeting of the Virginia Bar Association.  His reason — the moderator gave $250 in 2010 to a Haitian disaster relief fund run by the Clinton Foundation. Never mind that the proposed moderator, Judy Woodruff, is a prize-winning journalist and has moderated Presidential debates, as well as several of the VBA debates.

So far, the two candidates have both agreed to participate in only one debate.  McAuliffe has accepted invitations to four other debates and Youngkin, one other. The McAuliffe campaign says that it has not declined to participate in the one other debate that Youngkin has accepted (sponsored by Liberty University, Hampton University, and the Virginia Peninsula Chamber of Commerce). The Youngkin campaign refuses to say whether it has declined any of the other four that McAuliffe has accepted. (For full story see here or here.)

As Steve Haner pointed out recently, it is not that long before early voting starts. Youngkin needs to get out and introduce himself to voters. Or maybe he is hoping that, with all his money, he can rely on advertising.

A Warning for Democrats

Ross Douthat

By Dick Hall-Sizemore

Ross Douthat, a New York Times columnist, has written a couple of pieces that provide the best  synopsis and analysis of the current controversy over teaching race and racial history that I have seen. (The columns can be found here and here.)

He starts off with a perceptive comment on the current state of affairs: “It’s becoming hard to tell what the argument is about.”

In the first column, he summarizes  progressives’ goals as wanting to change the way that schools teach American history by exorcising the Lost Cause hagiography and broadening the “narrative of race beyond the Civil War and the civil rights era.” They also want to “weave these revisions into a more radical narrative of U.S. history as a whole.” He notes that conservatives “often see themselves as objecting to the most radical parts of progressive revisionism, not the entire project.” He concludes on  a hopeful note:

  “You could imagine, out of this controversy, potential forms of synthesis—  in which the progressive desire for a deeper reckoning with slavery and segregation gets embedded in a basically patriotic narrative of what the founding established, what Lincoln achieved, what America meant to people of many races, even with our sins.” Continue reading

Print Me a House

3D printer used to construct a house                                 Photo credit: Richmond Times-Dispatch

By Dick Hall-Sizemore

For someone who stays away from housing issues, I now have my second one in two days. Yesterday, I expressed dismay at the price tag on new “affordable” homes. Today’s topic is 3D printed homes.

As strange as that may sound, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported yesterday that work has begun in Richmond on the “first house in Virginia partially constructed using a 3D printer rather than lumber.”

I have trouble wrapping my mind around this concept.  =As I understand it, the “printer” is a large contraption that lays down concrete, rather than ink or toner, in precise patterns that have been programmed into a computer. The concrete is then smoothed out with a different nozzle that has a scraper attached. In the case of this house in Richmond, the printer is laying down layer after layer of concrete to “print” the outer walls of the house. The interior walls will be constructed by more traditional means. Continue reading

Sticker Shock

Creighton Court in Richmond         Photo credit: NBC12

By Dick Hall-Sizemore

I will be the first to admit that public housing policy is beyond my area of expertise. But, I am often amazed and befuddled at the cost of what is supposedly “affordable” housing.

Creighton Court is a traditional public housing complex in Richmond. The Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority has decided to raze the complex and replace it with a mixed-income development. RRHA earlier informed the public that some of the units would be houses “affordably priced” and marketed to first-time home buyers. So far, so good.

Today’s Richmond Times-Dispatch reports the projected price of these “affordable” homes: $400,000. People are reeling from the sticker shock. Even with a $50,000 down payment, the monthly mortgage payment would be over $1,400. For whom is this “affordable”? I had a decent paying state job and there was never a time at which I could have afforded a $1,400 mortgage payment. Continue reading

School Board Fails on First Amendment

Tanner Cross   Photo credit: ABC11

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

The Loudoun County School Board has gone too far by disciplining a teacher for speaking in opposition to a proposed Board policy.

Tanner Cross, a physical education teacher, appeared before the Board at a meeting in May in opposition to a proposed policy regarding LGBTQ students. One of the provisions of the draft policy would require students to use the name and pronoun “that corresponds to [the student’s] consistently asserted gender identity.” According to the Washington Post, Cross said that he could not do that; he would never “affirm that a biological boy can be a girl and vice versa.” Continue reading