by Kerry Dougherty
Ronald Albert Barnes.
That was the name of the Southampton County Correctional Center guard who died in March of 1975 after being beaten and stomped by two inmates, including convicted rapist Tony Lewis.
If you read Sunday’s Virginian-Pilot, maybe you were moved by the front-page valentine to “Tony The Tiger,” as he was affectionately known by his family, who are trying to get him out of prison after 50 years behind bars.
The story – “A Pursuit Of Freedom Blocked At Every Step” – is what journalists used to call a “Sunday thumb sucker,” a long-form piece dedicated to a heartwarming topic.
Perhaps you, too, read yesterday’s drivel about how this poor guy from Hampton – grew up fatherless in the projects, blah, blah, blah – and has been incarcerated since he was 16. His first conviction was for a 1973 rape (absolutely zero details on THAT crime) and later for his part in the murder of the prison guard, an escape attempt and other crimes associated with a deadly prison riot.
Inches and inches of ink about a killer. Yet the newspaper couldn’t be bothered to print the name of the man he murdered.
Color me unsurprised.
Let’s be honest, giving the dead man an identity might turn Tony the Tiger into Tony the Ruthless Killer and dilute the sympathy The Pilot is trying to gin up for the inmate. Continue reading
Virginia’s Department of Social Services (DSS) has prepared a plan for the implementation of a cap on electricity costs for low-income customers of Virginia’s two main utilities. My report on June 27 that the plan was “missing in action” was wrong.
For the most interested, you can find the DSS draft here, and it envisions the Percentage of Income Payment Program (PIPP) beginning in November of this year.
I owe apologies to the folks at DSS who clearly have been working on this, and obviously they were working with both utilities to get to this point. I also falsely implied it had dropped off the radar with the Glenn Youngkin Administration, and unfairly implied that the various advocacy groups who supported this had lost interest in it. My post was so irredeemably wrong and unfair I just deleted it.
Part of my reason for the post was to flush out what was happening, and I appreciate the reader who had seen the document and referred to it in a comment. He provided the link above. But the commentary was mine and I regret the errors. I will now dive in a bit deeper and perhaps file a later report on what is being proposed.
Fifty-one years ago last summer, covering my first American Legion League baseball game for the Petersburg Progress-Index, watching a local team (and being asked to keep the official scorebook) for the first time, I wrote a story that included the wrong names of the player who scored the winning run and the player credited with the RBI. The editor made me take every angry phone call. The feeling rushes back.
by Dick Hall-Sizemore
James Sherlock has done yeoman’s work on this blog with his pointing out the failure of state government to adequately regulate the nursing homes in the Commonwealth. I commend him for his perseverance on this issue.
In doing some research on the budget issues related to this topic, I encountered enough additional information to warrant a separate article, rather than a comment. Therefore, this article should be regarded as a supplement to the recent articles posted by Jim. It also provides me the opportunity to acknowledge that I unfairly criticized the House Republican majority in a comment to one of his earlier posts. Continue reading
Jillian Balow, ex-Superintendent of Public Instruction
by Dick Hall-Sizemore
In comments to the post about the resignation of Jillian Balow as Superintendent of Public Instruction and her severance pay, I asserted that her appointment was subject to the pleasure of the Governor. I was wrong.
The heads of almost all agencies, by law, serve at the pleasure of the Governor. (There is one exception, but more on that later.) However, the position of Superintendent of Public Instruction is established in the Virginia Constitution, which provides that the appointment shall be “for a term coincident with that of the Governor making the appointment.” The constitution does authorize the General Assembly to modify the term of office. However, the Virginia Code section mirrors the language in the constitution. Accordingly, as The Washington Post noted, Balow may have had grounds to sue if she had been fired.
The agency head who is not appointed by the Governor and does not serve at his pleasure is the Director of the Department of Wildlife Resources (formerly Game and Inland Fisheries). That person is appointed by the Board of Wildlife Resources. The story on that goes back into the mists of time (early 1970s). Suffice it to say that hunters and fishermen in Virginia were a strong lobby.
by James C. Sherlock
I received an update yesterday from the NAACP on legislation that caught their interest in the 2023 General Assembly.
One bill that did not pass, but got party line Democratic support in the Senate Judiciary Committee, in turn caught my eye.
It was SB 1080 Juvenile and domestic relations district courts; adjudication of delinquency. Patrons were Senators Edwards, Boysko and Surovell. It was not some fringe bill. This is a mainstream Democratic goal.
The NAACP wanted me to know they wanted it reintroduced next year.
Delinquency is currently defined as criminal complaints for felonies or misdemeanors filed against a juvenile age 17 and under.
Democrats, unanimous in the Senate Judiciary Committee, voted to create a newly-defined class of “underage persons,” 18-20, and handle them in the juvenile justice system as well.
Seriously. Twenty-year-old felons in juvenile detention facilities.
They voted for that. Continue reading
by Dick Hall-Sizemore
In an earlier post dealing with the proposed Standards of Learning in History and Social Studies, I complained that I could not find a copy of the earlier draft on the Department of Education website and suggested that it had been purged.
I was mistaken. The draft is available on the website. I apologize for my oversight and for my erroneous suggestion that DOE was trying to hide something.
I thank Charles Pyle, Director of Communications and Constituent Services for DOE, for letting me know of my mistake. (At least, we know that he follows BR!)
For anyone wishing to compare the two versions, here is the draft prepared during the Northam administration.
And here is the link to the revised proposed Standards that will be first considered by the Board of Education at its meeting tomorrow. Continue reading
by James C. Sherlock
The goals, good ones, of Virginia’s Pre-trial Services Agencies (PSA) is
- to advise courts on pre-trial release risks;
- to supervise the population on pre-trial release to reduce recidivist crime and failures to appear (FTAs) and
- through both efforts to help assure public safety.
By the government’s own evidence, those goals have not been realized.
A major Virginia Crime Commission study reported the PSA program made no difference at all compared to courts and pre-release populations not served by PSA. It’s overall success rate was no higher than 62%. The other 38% represent a danger to the citizens of Virginia.
This article is written for two reasons: (1) to get the Youngkin administration as an urgent public safety issue to improve the PSA system or try something else; and (2) to expose that the DCJS annual reports to the governor and General Assembly have been at best wrong.
The evidence of PSA ineffectiveness submitted by the Virginia Crime Commission is scientifically derived by external review. The reports of DCJS are derived from internal data to support budget requests.
The very large gaps in assessment of PSA effectiveness between the two are impossible to rationalize.
In order to make those two separate cases, I will introduce evidence of both issues. Continue reading
By Peter Galuszka
In a remarkable display of incompetence, the Trump Administration this summer transferred dozens of undocumented aliens being held in detention centers in Arizona and Florida to a private prison in Farmville just so special federal tactical officers could beef up crowd control in Washington, D.C.
Consequently, some 300 inmates at the Farmville Detention Center operated by the privately held Richmond-based Immigration Centers of America contracted the COVID 19 virus and one died.
The action, reported this morning by The Washington Post, prompted U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine to call for stricter oversight of the Farmville facility that operates under a contract with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency to hold undocumented aliens while their cases are being reviewed or while they await deportation.
Jennifer Boysko, a Democratic state senator, called for changes in state law to allow greater regulation of private prisons.
According to the Post, the Trump Administration wanted more protection from generally peaceful protests that were being held near the White House that called attention to police slayings of African Americans while in custody. Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser declined to call for federal help. Continue reading
By Peter Galuszka
Early this past Wednesday morning, Mark Pettibone and Connor O’Shead were walking on their way home after a peaceful protest in Portland, Ore.
Suddenly an unmarked van pulled in front of them. Men wearing green uniforms, tactical gear and generic signs reading “POLICE” hustled them into the vehicle. They were not told why they were being detained. After 90 minutes, the badly shaken men were released without being charged.
The episode might sound like the activities of Russian President Vladimir Putin and his “little green men” who have shown up in places like Crimea and Eastern Ukraine to intimidate and detain people.
But this was Portland, a progressive city that has seen protests for weeks. President Donald Trump has urged federal authorities to move in on cities to restore his sense of order even though city officials in Portland do not want his help and are investigating what is going on.
And, guess who is playing a role in what could be a growing national trend of federal law enforcement performing “snatch and grabs” of innocent protestors?
That would be Kenneth Cuccinelli, the former hard right, state attorney general and failed gubernatorial candidate. He is now acting deputy secretary of the Trump’s Department of Homeland Security. Continue reading
Posted in Correction, Courts and law, Crime , corrections and law enforcement, Culture wars, Defense, Immigration, Individual liberties, Media, Public corruption, Public safety & health, Race and race relations, Scandals
Tagged Peter Galuszka
The Internet Research Agency in St. Petersburg, Russia
By Peter Galuszka
Around midnight Monday, reporters in downtown Washington D.C., stood by ready to cover the next round of protests about the slaying of African Americans by police.
They started getting tweets marked #dcblackout suggesting that internet service was being interrupted because of a secret program presumably run by the government that would cut them off.
The curious thing, NBC News reported, is that the reporters’ cell phones worked just fine. Later Twitter was contacted and began to investigate. It was curious that the questionable tweet seemed to be coming from the left-wing ANTIFA group that is said to have helped organize protests around the country.
A tweet labeled as been sourced with ANTIFA proclaimed “Tonight’s the night, comrades. Tonight we say F&*^The city and we move into the residential areas, the white hoods and we take what’s ours.”
Twitter quickly uncovered the problem. The tweets were fakes put out by a far-right white nationalist group called Identity Evropa. Twitter took down the sites because they violated the company’s policy against using social media to incite violence, NBC reported. Continue reading
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By Peter Galuszka
Get ready. The names of all kinds of leftist organizations are going to be kicked around as the masterminds behind violent, cop-beating looters, especially the so-called ANTIFA movement in Virginia and across the country..
But what is reality? I don’t have clear answers but I have some ideas to share since I have been dealing with activist groups since I was in high school in the late 1960s. I hope they help this blog’s discussion.
First, there’s plenty of research available about ANTIFA and there are already plenty of reports about it. It is not a single group but a very loose collection of autonomous activist groups, most of which do not advocate violence. For reference, see yesterday’s Daily Beast piece with the blunt headline, “Trump’s ‘ANTIFA Threat Is Total Bullshit – And Totally Dangerous.”
That article and plenty of others note that ANTIFA, or whatever it is, has no clear chain of command and uses ultra-fast social media to alert other activists about rallies and protests but has no control over them. If you are thinking about the tightly-controlled and secretive Communist cells of the past century, you are not getting it. Continue reading
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By Dick Hall-Sizemore
As part of the response to the novel coronavirus crisis, the General Assembly accepted amendments to the budget bills for the current year and the upcoming biennium, proposed by the Governor, authorizing the Department of Corrections (DOC) to release early from incarceration offenders with less than a year to serve on their sentences. This authorization will be effective as soon as the Governor signs the caboose bill.
DOC has released its early release plan. The plan is fairly detailed, laying out the criteria for eligibility for release and the internal procedures to be followed by DOC in implementing the plan. This post will summarize those elements of the plan that are most relevant to the general public. (The full plan can be found here.) Continue reading
Deerfield Correctional Center
By Dick Hall-Sizemore
The latest DOC report shows an increase in the number of offenders testing positive for the novel coronavirus. There were a total of 147 incarcerated with a positive test, with nine of those in a hospital, compared to 116 and 8, respective, in the prior day’s report. Central Virginia Correctional Unit, the women’s minimum security unit in Chesterfield, showed the most increase, 23. The cumulative total of positive reports has increased from 139 to 170. Fifty-three staff have tested positive.
The most worrisome aspect of this latest report is the occurrence of a positive test of an offender in the Deerfield complex for the first time. Deerfield Correctional Center is the facility in which DOC houses its geriatric and assisted living offender populations. It is not clear from the report whether this was an offender housed in the main facility or in the work center, which is a minimum security facility for female offenders and is a separate building from the main prison. Continue reading
Bon Air Juvenile Correctional Center
By Dick Hall-Sizemore
The Department of Juvenile Justice has announced that 25 juvenile offenders have tested positive for COVID-19. That is 12.5% of the population of 200 housed at the Bon Air Juvenile Correctional Center in Chesterfield County.
The announcement was made only after advocates for juveniles cited reports of numerous offenders in the facility as having tested positive.
The agency announced last week that one juvenile had announced positive. That announcement was obviously misleading, if not downright false. The medical director of the facility stated that 13 of those who had tested positive “have already been released from medical isolation per Virginia Department of Health (VDH) guidelines.” Those guidelines recommend a two-week quarantine. Obviously, at least those 13 had tested positive more than two weeks ago, but the agency neglected to include them in its earlier report. Continue reading
Virginia Correctional Center for Women
By Dick Hall-Sizemore
Governor Ralph Northam has announced that he will ask the General Assembly for authority to release from prison those offenders with a year or less to serve on their sentences in order to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus in prisons. He stressed that only those who have demonstrated good behavior and would not pose a threat to society would be eligible.
The vehicle for the request would be an amendment to the budget bill for the current fiscal, the “caboose” bill. That bill would take effect as soon as the Governor signs it.
In its latest release, DOC reported 26 offenders testing positive, with 6 of those being hospitalized. That is an increase of one in the total number, as well as one more in the hospital, from the previous day. The agency also reported 25 staff members testing positive, an increase of three from the previous day. Continue reading