Category Archives: Crime , corrections and law enforcement

More Money, Same Level of Service

Photo Credit: Richmond Times Dispatch

By Dick Hall-Sizemore

There are often cries of anguish or outrage on this blog and elsewhere over the increases in spending proposed in budget proposals and then authorized by the General Assembly. Some of this criticism of increased spending is justified, but, sometimes, the increase is the result of circumstances beyond an agency’s control. Sometimes, stuff just costs more.

Replacing State Police cruisers is a good example of this quandary. For many years, the State Police used the Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor. When Ford stopped production of that model in 2011, the State Police began using the Ford Taurus Police Interceptor.  (It took me a little while to get used to seeing the State Police in those smaller cars.) Next, Ford discontinued production of the Taurus in 2019. After testing Dodge and Chevrolet vehicles as potential replacements, the State Police selected the Ford Police Interceptor Utility. (This is a modified SUV and it explains why I have been seeing local police driving SUVs, which was a little disconcerting.) Continue reading

Virginia’s Double Standards for Justice

Mugshots of nine of the George Floyd protesters and/or rioters arrested in Richmond last year.

by James A. Bacon

Twenty-year-old Manny Wilder has been sentenced to three years in prison for chasing a group of Black Lives Matter protesters in Virginia Beach with a hatchet, yelling the N-word, and driving towards the group in a pickup truck. He didn’t actually hurt anyone, but prosecutors charged him with four misdemeanors, including reckless driving, abusive language, disturbing the peace, and disorderly conduct.

“He was out there yelling that word while wielding a hatchet,” said a Virginia Beach judge, according to the Virginian-Pilot. Wilder appeared to be “full of hatred,” he added. “We can not tolerate hatred in the community.”

Fair enough. Such behavior should not be tolerated. Wilder got what he deserved.

How about the hundreds of other protesters and rioters who were arrested during the wave of unrest that swept Virginia last summer? You know, the ones who yelled abusive language, disturbed the peace, engaged in disorderly conducts, and oh, by the way sprayed graffiti, overturned cars, set buildings on fire, and assaulted police? Did they get what they deserved? Continue reading

Progressives’ Next Target: Life Without Parole

by James A. Bacon

Progressives have all but won their battle to ban the death penalty in Virginia. Both houses of the General Assembly have voted to abolish Virginia’s death penalty, and Governor Northam is likely to sign the legislation. I’m OK with that. Our justice system is flawed. History has shown that too many innocent people have been condemned, and there is no walking back an execution if exculpatory evidence is found. But now the move is afoot to curtail life without parole.

The number of Virginia inmates serving life sentences now constitute 14% of Virginia’s prison population (and 15% of the nation’s). Since 2003, the number of such inmates has risen 66%.

Life-long imprisonment, progressives argue, does not add to public safety because the majority of violent offenders “age out” of criminal conduct as they get older.

Funny thing about that. Murder victims don’t “age out” of anything. They’re dead. But in the minds of progressives, murderers are, in their own way, victims, too. Victims of society. Continue reading

Criminal Justice Scorecard at Crossover

By Dick Hall-Sizemore

With the General Assembly at the crossover break, now would be a good time to take stock of the status of major criminal justice and public safety legislation. Not surprisingly, the priorities identified by Democrats are faring well.

Below is a summary of the actions taken on selected bills. For a more detailed description of each bill, see my earlier post. The votes are in parenthesis. In most cases, the original bill was amended or there was a substitute before it passage.

Still alive; Passed first house

Democratic priorities

Repeal of death penalty—HB 2263 (57-41); SB 1165 (21-17) Continue reading

Virginia’s Legendary Corruption Blocks Antitrust Enforcement

Great Seal of Virginia

by James C. Sherlock

Readers of this blog have indicated an unquenchable appetite for information about and discussion of Virginia’s Certificate of Public Need (COPN) law and its administration.

This essay informs on the negative impacts of the COPN law and the Virginia Antitrust Act (the Act) itself on the enforcement of antitrust laws against Virginia’s regional hospital monopolies.

First, know that the business activities that some of Virginia’s hospital monopolies exhibit can already be deemed illegal under both federal and state antitrust laws. But the Act gives them a special dispensation, complicates both state and federal antitrust enforcement and results directly in the in-your-face anticompetitive activities we see every day.

The federal government (and once even Bob McDonnell as Virginia Attorney General) occasionally have intervened to block interstate mergers or in-state acquisitions before they occur, but always within the federal administrative and court systems, and they have never challenged COPN decisions.

But no government agency has ever sued over the business activities of Virginia’s COPN-constructed monopolies. Continue reading

A Horse Built by a Committee

by James C. Sherlock

Updated Jan 31 at 8:46 AM

Virginia’s Attorney General has offered a bill to create a new state bureaucracy to handle the opioid settlement money about to flow into the Commonwealth to support prevention, treatment, and recovery. It is going to be a lot of money. The state opioid settlements will not be the end of it.  Federal money is coming for the same purpose. 

The Attorney General wants a new state Opioid Abatement Fund (OAF) for the money and a new state Opioid Abatement Authority (OAA) to spend it.  The AG admits he has no idea how much money will be available, yet his bill places constraints on how it may be spent and earmarks the distribution of the funds.

I disagree.

The Problem

According to the CDC, opioids—mainly synthetic opioids (other than methadone)—are currently the main driver of drug overdose deaths.

East of the Mississippi river, the legal product that kills is commercially produced opioids illegally prescribed and filled.  They include:

  • Natural opioids: Pain medications like morphine and codeine
  • Semi-synthetic opioids: Pain medications like oxycodone, hydrocodone, hydromorphone, and oxymorphone
  • Methadone: A synthetic opioid used to treat pain, but it can also be provided through opioid treatment programs to treat opioid use disorders.

Look below at the CDC map showing Opioid prescription dispensing rate  and see the dark scar through the Appalachians showing more than 112 prescriptions per 100 persons.

2015 Opioid Dispensing Rate per 100 Persons – Credit – CDC

Continue reading

Criminal Law and Public Safety Bills of Interest

By Dick Hall-Sizemore

Despite recently having a special session to devote to criminal justice reform, the General Assembly has a healthy docket of criminal law and public safety reform bills to consider this session. I have selected a few to highlight below. Unless otherwise noted, the bills are still in their original committees.

Democratic Priorities

Elimination of the death penaltySB 1165 (Surovell—Fairfax), HB 1779 (Carter—Prince William), and HB 2263 (Mullin—James City). The Senate bill has been reported out the Senate Judiciary Committee (why do they insist on changing longstanding committee names?) and is in Senate Finance (being a creature of habit, I will continue to use the former committee name, rather than Finance and Appropriations). Continue reading

The Cost of Criminal Justice Reform

By Dick Hall-Sizemore

Examining the projected costs of criminal justice reform enacted by the 2020 Special Session may be a bit of old news, but I think it is still useful.

The General Assembly has appropriated $27.2 million for the current biennium to support its criminal justice reform initiatives. If one includes the additional $800,000 included by the Governor in his introduced budget bill, the total is $28 million.

To be fair, $15 million of that total was in the form of one-time appropriations in the first year of the biennium. From the perspective of ongoing costs, the base budget in FY 2022 will have increased by about $10.7 million. However, much of the projected costs for some of these initiatives will not be incurred until subsequent biennia and the total overall cost will be substantially higher. Finally, some of the potential costs cannot be projected now. Continue reading

Update: Herring Hands Stoney Contract Investigation to State Police

by James A. Bacon

Attorney General Mark Herring has authorized the Virginia State Police to investigate Mayor Levar Stoney’s circumvention of procurement protocols to award a $1.8 million Confederate statue-removal contract to a campaign contributor, reports Virginia Public Media.

The investigation, requested by Kim Gray, Richmond City Councilwoman and rival candidate for Richmond mayor, had been handed to Timothy Martin, commonwealth’s attorney for August County, as special prosecutor. He kicked it over to Herring, and Herring has given it to the state police. I was concerned that Herring might simply bury the case, but I am pleased to see that he did not. Continue reading

Northam Proposes Legal Marijuana in Va Within Two Years

by DJ Rippert

Ralph Reefer. On Wednesday the Northam Administration unveiled legislation to legalize recreational use of marijuana in Virginia. The legislation will be introduced by House Majority Leader Charniele Herring, D-Alexandria, and Senate President Pro Tempore Louise Lucas, D-Portsmouth. Sen. Adam Ebbin, D-Alexandria, and Del. Don Scott Jr., D-Portsmouth. Northam took up the cause of legalizing marijuana last November citing both racial equity and financial issues. Sale of legal marijuana would start by Jan 1, 2023, under the Northam plan. Continue reading

Is Abolition of Life Without Parole Next?

by Hans Bader

Governor Ralph Northam and other Democratic Party leaders are backing legislation to abolish the death penalty. But that’s not all. A newly submitted bill would abolish life sentences without parole, even for serial killers and those who once would have been sentenced to death.

The powerful head of the state senate’s Courts of Justice Committee, Sen. John Edwards, D-Roanoke, has just introduced a bill, SB 1370, to bring back parole and retroactively make people eligible for parole even if they were sentenced at a time at which there was no parole. Parole will be made available even to people who commit “a Class 1 felony,” which includes the worst murders, such as serial killers who commit the “willful, deliberate, and premeditated killing of more than one person” in a single crime spree. If the death penalty is abolished, this legislation would mean that even the worst murderers could be paroled. Continue reading

Dems Seek to Abolish Virginia Death Penalty

Slippery slope: Abolish the death penalty…. eliminate life sentences… empty the prisons.

by Hans Bader

Virginia’s governor and the head of a key legislative subcommittee are backing legislation to abolish the death penalty in Virginia and overturn existing death sentences.

In theory, the death penalty could save lives by deterring people from committing murder. Several studies found that it deters killings of innocent people. As the Associated Press noted in 2007, “Each execution deters an average of 18 murders, according to a 2003 nationwide study by professors at Emory University. (Other studies have estimated the deterred murders per execution at three, five, and 14).”

The death penalty also can prevent additional murders by prisoners serving life sentences. Being executed is the only thing that stops some murderers from killing again. Consider the case of Robert Gleason. He had been sentenced to life in prison without parole for murder. He beat his cellmate to death while in Wallens Ridge State Prison. Afterwards, while awaiting trial on that charge at Red Onion State Prison, he murdered another inmate. He then declared that he would continue killing until the state executed him. He was sentenced to death and moved to Sussex I State Prison, home of death row. Continue reading

Legislative Persistence and Character

Del. Frank Hargrove, Sr.

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

Twenty years ago, a senior member of the House of Delegates introduced a bill to abolish the death penalty. The introduction of such legislation was unusual in itself; even more unusual was the patron: Frank Hargrove, a Republican delegate from Hanover County.

Hargrove, who had been in the General Assembly for 18 years by that time, seemed an unlikely candidate to introduce a bill to abolish the death penalty. He was a staunch conservative and had even introduced a bill years earlier to bring back public hangings. However, regarding his prior beliefs about the death penalty, he told a reporter, “My stand was one of significant uncertainty. My own logic told me it wasn’t right, but it seemed to be what the general public wanted in terms of dealing with these criminals. But [my stand] was very shaky.” He explained that his bill on public hangings was motivated by his feeling that the public had become too comfortable with executions.  Continue reading

Northam’s Good Move: End Executions

The Martinsville Seven

By Peter Galuszka

Governor Ralph Northam will propose legislation to ban executions in the state. The move could end decades of systemic racism in the criminal justice system.

“I’ve strongly about this for a long time,” he was quoted as saying. The bill will be taken up by the General Assembly, which met in its 2021 session today.

If the bill passes, it would make Virginia the only Southern state to ban executions.

According to the Richmond Times Dispatch, 113 executions have been conducted in the state since the U.S. Supreme Court allowed executions to resume in 1976. Virginia’s vigorous efforts to kill those convicted of capital crimes gave it the dishonorable distinction of being No. 2 in the country after Texas which had 570 executions in that time frame.

Historically, African Americans have been executed at rates that exceed their numbers in the general population. Continue reading

Welcome to the Foxhole

by James C. Sherlock

I just posted this response to a relative who asked me to read a post by a left wing professor blaming Q’Anon for the violence in the capitol.

I read the article. I haven’t read enough of (name of the author) to characterize him, so I won’t.

I will, however address the violent fringes of American politics.

When I look at the pasty, scruffy-looking college students and millennial anarchists from this summer’s violence, I see a threat but one easily contained by police if let to do their jobs. The issue is that the violent left had political cover.  The mayors of the left could not bring themselves to effectively deal with their violence because they agreed with their politics.  

It is those leftist extremists and apolitical looters against which the nation’s cities boarded up their stores and restaurants right before the election. Not in case Donald Trump lost, but in case he won. A threat, but with political permission manageable because they are not generally individually tough or skilled at violence. If blue collar unions had backed and participated in that violence, it would have been a different story, but they did not.

When I look at the violent right, that is a completely different matter. These men and women are rough street fighters, many with backgrounds that have taught them how to exert violence efficiently and effectively.  Continue reading