Saturday, August 27, 2016

Latest Press Release On Restored Civil Rights

Commonwealth of Virginia
Office of Governor Terry McAuliffe

August 22, 2016

Office of the Governor
Contact: Brian Coy

Governor McAuliffe Announces Process for Case-by-Case Restoration of Former-Felons’ Civil Rights

~ Governor restores rights of nearly 13,000 Virginians who had previously registered to vote ~

RICHMOND – Governor Terry McAuliffe today announced that he and his team have begun restoring the civil rights of former Virginia felons in compliance with an order by the Virginia Supreme Court.

Speaking at a press conference at the Virginia Civil Rights Memorial in Richmond, the Governor announced that he has already restored the rights of nearly 13,000 Virginians who had previously registered to vote before the court’s ruling stripped them of their rights.

The Governor also announced the detailed process he will use to evaluate the cases of individuals who may qualify to have their rights restored based on the objective criteria he has established.

“Restoring the rights of Virginians who have served their time and live, work and pay taxes in our communities is one of the pressing civil rights issues of our day,” said Governor McAuliffe. “I have met these men and women and know how sincerely they want to contribute to our society as full citizens again.

“The process I have announced today fully complies with the Virginia Supreme Court’s order and the precedent of governors before me. It also reflects the clear authority the Governor possesses to use his own discretion to restore rights of people who have served their time.

“The history of civil rights in Virginia has at times been a difficult one. Opponents have often succeeded in delaying or undermining efforts to move our Commonwealth forward – but in the end progress has always prevailed. This time will be no different.

“It is my hope that the approach we announced today marks the end of the partisan battles that have been waged over this issue so that every Virginian leader can play a role in welcoming these individuals back to society and building a Commonwealth of greater justice, equality and opportunity for every family.”

Today the administration launched a new web portal ( for Virginians to access more information about the process and how it impacts them. 

The McAuliffe administration also shared the following memo with Commonwealth’s Attorneys, members of the Virginia General Assembly and local elections officials across the Commonwealth. That memo is below:

Governor McAuliffe’s Restoration of Rights Policy
August 22, 2016

Restoring the rights of individuals who have served their time and reentered society is the right thing to do. Virginia’s felon disenfranchisement policy is rooted in a tragic history of voter suppression and marginalization of minorities, and it needs to be overturned. While Virginians continue to wait for the General Assembly to pass a constitutional amendment to permanently repeal this policy, the Governor is committed to doing everything in his power to restore the rights of Virginians who have completed their sentences. 

The Constitution of Virginia grants the Governor the sole authority to restore the rights of individuals who have been convicted of a felony.  While it is our position that the Governor’s April 22nd action was clearly constitutional by any reasonable standard, he will proceed with individual restorations in accordance with the Virginia Supreme Court’s order and the precedent of governors before him.
Today, the Governor is announcing next steps to proceed with individually restoring the rights of persons who have served their time and completed supervised release.  This process is fair and transparent and fully complies with the restrictions outlined in the July 22nd Supreme Court decision. These actions stem from Governor McAuliffe’s belief in the power of second chances and his determination that our Commonwealth will no longer treat these individuals like second class citizens.

It is the Governor’s hope that this will be the last phase of this battle over the civil rights of these individuals, and that opponents of these actions will recognize his clear authority as well as the morality behind it. As we have seen, there are some in our society who believe people who commit felonies should lose their rights forever, despite having served the sentence that a judge and jury imposed for their crime. And there are others who believe a subjective evaluation of the severity of a person’s crime should determine whether that individual is worthy to have his or her rights restored. As his actions demonstrate, Governor McAuliffe has faith in our criminal justice system and its ability to impose different sentences on different individuals in relation to the particular nature and circumstances of their offenses. After offenders serve those sentences, he believes they should have equal access under the law to have their rights restored. If a person is judged to be safe to live in the community, he or she should have a full voice in its governance.

Any action of this size and historic nature is difficult to perform without some administrative error. As the information below demonstrates, identifying these individuals (some of whom have been disenfranchised for decades) and restoring their rights is a significant undertaking of numerous state agencies that maintain information in different ways. The process we designed includes a multi-step review to ensure that the individuals being considered for restoration fully meet the Governor’s criteria. However, it is possible that there will be discrepancies from time to time, and we will work to fix them as soon as they are identified. The difficulty of this administrative undertaking is not an excuse, however, for leaving hundreds of thousands of people disenfranchised.

The Governor’s process moving forward is outlined below.

STEP 1: Re-restoring the rights of individuals who had their voter registration canceled as a result of the Virginia Supreme Court’s decision: 

·         Following the July 22nd Supreme Court decision, the Department of Elections and Secretary of the Commonwealth (SOC) quickly complied with the Court’s order for the Secretary of the Commonwealth to delete from the records any individuals who had their rights restored under these orders, and for the Department of Elections to cancel the voter registration of any individual whose rights were restored under these orders.  All individuals who registered to vote pursuant to Governor McAuliffe’s April 22May 31 and June 24 orders were mailed a cancellation notice from the Department of Elections.

·         Since then, the SOC led a thorough review of the individuals who had their voter registration canceled to determine whether each individual meets the Governor’s standards for restoration of rights and provided a recommendation to the Governor.

·         On August 15, Governor McAuliffe approved the restoration of rights of nearly 13,000 people.  Certain individual cases remain under review.

·         Individual restoration orders were printed with the Governor’s signature under the Seal of the Commonwealth and mailed on Friday, August 19, to those newly restored individuals.

·         Individuals whose rights were restored on or after August 15 have been updated in the SOC’s database and communicated to the Department of Elections to remove those individuals from the prohibited voter list. 
·         SOC will release the names of newly restored individuals monthly. The list will be made available by request. The full list will also be included in Senate Document 2 (SD2) as it has been historically.

STEP 2: Restoring the rights of other qualified individuals.

·         SOC is giving priority consideration to individuals who request restoration of their civil rights.  Those wishing to expedite restoration of their own rights may contact the SOC through the

·         In addition, the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s office has identified individuals who may meet the Governor’s standards for restoration: individuals who have been convicted of a felony and are no longer incarcerated or under active supervision by the Department of Corrections (DOC) or other state agency.

·         Prioritizing by date since release from supervision and starting with those who have been released from supervision the longest, SOC will conduct a thorough review of each of these individuals, checking their records with Virginia State Police, DOC, State Compensation Board, Department of Juvenile Justice, Department of Criminal Justice Service, and Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services to ensure the individual meets the Governor’s standards for restoration of rights.

·         In addition to confirming completion of incarceration and supervised release, the SOC considers factors such as active warrants, pre-trial hold, and other concerns that may be flagged by law enforcement.  Individuals in these circumstances or any with concerns about the accuracy of information analyzed from law enforcement will be held from our streamlined consideration process for further review.

·         Upon completion of its review, SOC will make recommendations to the Governor to restore the rights of individuals who have been determined to meet his standards.
·         The Governor will review SOC’s analysis of each individual’s record and will make the final decision on proposed candidates for restoration of rights.

·         Upon the Governor’s approval, SOC will issue and mail personalized restoration orders.

·         SOC will release the names of newly restored individuals monthly. The list will be made available by request. The full list will also be included in Senate Document 2 (SD2) as it has been historically.

If you know of individuals who wish to have their rights restored, please have them submit a request on the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s website Individuals without internet access can call the SOC at 804-692-0104 or mail-in a contact form.


To view the published release, please visit:

Elliot Meyer
Press Assistant
Office of Governor Terence R. McAuliffe
Direct: (804) 786-4401
General: (804) 786-2211

Note: Here's a link to send an email message to the Governor to thank him and to encourage him to have the Parole Board grant discretionary and geriatric release to deserving inmates.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

How Much Cash, Real Estate And Paid Staff Does It Take To Produce A Follower of Jesus?

"No one can truly know Christ unless they follow him daily in life." 
- early Anabaptist Hans Denck

Most of us Mennonites operate from the conviction that we should do everything possible to pass on the faith to our children, no matter what the cost.

But have we focused too much on financially costly programs and institutions to accomplish this--and too little on things that are more costly in terms of personal sacrifice?

Consider the example of Jesus. His work of nurturing young disciples required almost zero financing, but cost him everything in terms of time, energy and his very life.

Today we tend to outsource many of those efforts to church professionals and parachurch institutions.

EXAMPLE A: Since the mid 20th century we have invested in more and more expensive real estate for our weekly worship services, Sunday school and other programs to nurture people in the faith, all of which tend to utilize a lot of building space (and are used for a very limited periods of time). More recently, it's become more common for congregations to hire paid Christian education persons and part time or full time youth and young adult pastors, all of whom use professionally produced Sunday School, Bible School and other study curricula.

Task A: Figure out how much of your church's budget goes for the above discipling efforts, including cost of building maintenance, curriculum and the amount going for staff salaries and support. Then figure what the approximate monetary cost is per youth and/or young adult benefiting from these programs.

EXAMPLE B: Mennonites appear to have more professionally run church-wide institutions dedicated to educating our young than do most denominations of our size. Among these are state-of-the-art church camps, Christian elementary and high schools, and Christian colleges and seminaries.  The unusual numbers of these great programs are partly due to the merger that created MCUSA, and the tendency of institutions, for better or for worse, to make every effort to preserve and perpetuate themselves.

Task B: Check your church's budget to determine your financial investment in para church organizations and institutions focused on nurturing and discipling our young. Compare that to the rate of giving designated for the church's mission beyond itself, and how that compares to past church budgets.

Finally, add up the total numbers and come up with an estimated average cost of raising one Mennonite follower of Jesus from childhood to adulthood in your congregation, including their attendance at Mennonite or other Christian educational institutions.

Next, compare that to the financial cost of discipling one young believer in the first century church, or one Anabaptist believer in the sixteenth century, or one Mennonite World Conference member in the Global South, or a young believer in an Old Order Amish or Mennonite community. *

 I'm not saying that spending some or all of this money is necessarily a bad thing, only that we consider how to best use our resources in ways that best demonstrate Jesus' approach to disciple making. The work of making disciples is always costly, and sometimes may indeed involve some substantial financial investment.

But are we overlooking other even more demanding and costly ways of raising Jesus-followers? For example, what impact would it have on our young if they observed us being engaged in some of the following:

- Congregational members demonstrating a radical commitment to reducing personal possessions and making huge investments in worldwide relief and service efforts.

- Paid staff members voluntarily living on lower salaries, and encouraging others to follow their example.

- The church, both locally and as a denomination, placing a moratorium on investing in more real estate or paid positions until the rest of a world in need catches up with our standard of living.

- Having a growing number of members embrace a lifestyle akin to those of people like St. Francis of Assissi or a Mother Teresa--or the lifestyle of Jesus and his apostles, who exhorted his disciples to leave all behind and follow in his steps?

Perhaps there is no more effective way of enlisting and training faithful Jesus followers than by our actually following in his steps, costly as that may be.

Which may makes what we are doing now seem really cheap in comparison.

And sadly, too many of our teens and young adults don't seem to be especially impressed by it.

Footnote: The Amish, without any church buildings or paid staff, and with no overt efforts at evangelizing, are growing at a very rapid rate, and according to a recent Mennonite World Review article, will soon have four times as many members as MCUSA. Part of that is due to having larger families, but even more important is their 85% retention rate, well above our own.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Local Citizens: Support Reform At The Next Meeting Of The Community Criminal Justice Board

Mr. William Kyger, District 4 member of the Rockingham Board of Supervisors, will be serving as the new chair of the CCJB beginning with its next meeting at 4 pm Monday, August 29, at the Fire and Rescue Room in the southwest corner of the County Administration Building

Your respectful presence will show support for the CCJB as it considers such agenda items as the following (this one from from the local Reentry Council): 

The Harrisonburg/Rockingham/Page Reentry Council wishes to collaborate with the CCJB in further evaluating and implementing more of the Moseley Group's recommendations they adopted in December, 2104, to help reduce incarceration:

1. Adult Drug Court 

“…the scientific evidence is overwhelming that adult drug courts reduce crime, reduce substance abuse, improve family relationships, and increase earning potential. …Drug Courts in Virginia saved taxpayers $19,234 per person as compared to traditional case processing, and reduced recidivism rates for the persons completing a program.”

2. Day Reporting Centers

“…to offer enhanced treatment and supervision to probationers or sentenced offenders not on probation; to monitor early released inmates from jail; to monitor arrested persons prior to trial; as a halfway-out step for inmates who have shown progress in community corrections or work-
release centers; and as a halfway-in step for offenders who are in violation of probation. Sometimes referred to as a “one-stop” shop, a Day Reporting Center offers many of programs and services that best practices suggests reduces the likelihood of reoffending; reduces recidivism, and eventually reduce jail bed space requirements, including: individual and group counseling, substance abuse education, anger management, domestic violence prevention, cognitive and life skills training, parenting and family reintegration, community service, education/GED preparation, and reentry services.”  

3. Implement New Programs

“…initiate a long range planning strategy to investigate, develop and implement a continuum of jail-based ...programs and services for persons with mental health and substance abuse issues, and programs and services which target the probation violator population which appears to be utilizing a substantial portion of jail beds.” 

4. Reduce Number of Inmates In Three Categories 
  1. un-sentenced detainees awaiting trial (approximately 40% of the inmate population);
  2. probation violators (by a number of measures a disproportionally large offender group),
  3. offenders with substantial substance/mental health issues that are associated with repeated criminal behavior and contribute to the jail’s “revolving door.” 
5. Increase System Coordination, Goal Setting, Oversight and Planning

“The community has a formal Community Criminal Justice Board (CCJB) with the statutory responsibility to: (1) advise on the development and operation of local pretrial services and community-based probation programs and services for use by the courts in diverting offenders from local correctional facilities; (2) assist community agencies in establishing and modifying programs and services for offenders; (3) evaluate and monitor community programs, services and facilities; and (4) develop and amend criminal justice plans. This group should oversee an ongoing planning effort that focuses the issues associated continuing crowding at all levels.”

6. Have CCJB Form Working Sub-committees

“…reviewing, analyzing and identifying processes and programs within the system that can be enhanced to create a more effective and efficient criminal justice system. These sub-committees should include a broad spectrum of representatives from the criminal justice, public health, higher education communities, as well as concerned citizens.” 

7. Investigate Ways to Reduce Intake

“Programs and administrative practices aimed at reducing intake should be evaluated and implemented. Early and effective pretrial programming should be enhanced with the goal of reducing future intake pressure.”

8. Investigate Pretrial Confinement Policies, Procedures and Administrative Practices

“… determine risk levels of persons incarcerated, bond statuses and reasons for confinement. There are, for example, a large number of detainees who are confined without bond for reasons that are not apparent. In addition, available data suggests that over 90% of ordered secure bonds are for amounts of $5,000 or less – amounts that poor people may not be able or willing to pay. In the face of research that suggests that requirements of small secured bond amounts is not related to public safety or appearances in court, further investigation is recommended.”

9. Increase Pretrial and Probation Staff Levels

“…consider funding new positions rather than waiting for the State funding process…A total of 6.5 pretrial and local probation officers combined to provide services to a community with over 125,000 residents with an annual operating budget of just over $635,000 is not adequate to provide services and programs for the offender population…”

10. Expand Home Electronic and GPS Monitoring For Pre- and Post-trial Supervision

“…provides a viable and effective mechanism for controlling jail crowding.” 

11. Implement and Strengthen New Jail-based Programs

“...including: work release, education release, public work force, electronic home monitoring, weekend sentencing (non-consecutive sentencing).”

12. Expand and strengthen reentry services for incarcerated offenders

“…the provision of reentry and transition services is an important service delivery component of many jail-based programs.”

13. Provide Expanded Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services Within the Jail 

Increasingly, offenders with chronic mental health issues are residing in local and regional jails, and greatly contributing to the ‘revolving jail door’ that is apparent in Rockingham-Harrisonburg.”

Saturday, August 20, 2016

"Sharing False Witness"--How Facebook Has Become Farcebook

One of 6 reputable fact checking sites
"What's that smell in this room? Didn't you notice it, Brick? Didn't you notice a powerful and obnoxious odor of mendacity in this room?"
- Tennessee Williams play, "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof"

Facebook and other forms of social media have become virtual tabloids of re-shared half-truths, rumors and outright falsehoods, especially in this political season.


Obama Signs Executive Order Banning The Pledge Of Allegiance In Schools Nationwide
This site uses what looks like the abc news logo, also the abcnews URL, except for an added ".co" (and the "White House Hotline" number listed is for the Westboro Baptist Church of Orlando!) See

DNC Hires Actors to Fill Seats Vacated by Bernie Supporters

How Can We Counter This Kind of Misinformation?

1. Always be skeptical of social media posts. And thoroughly fact check before you share any of them.

2. Always mistrust sites that consistently represent only one side or one particular point of view, like Brietbart, the Drudge Report, the Daily Cos, and multiple other supposed "news sources". Any site names that contain the words liberal, conservative, Republican, Democrat, red, blue, etc., are sure to represent some form of propaganda espousing a political party or cause.

3. Read and follow more than one news source, recognizing that no news outlet, including those representing the so-called "Lame Stream Media", is totally free of bias. Yet conventional outlets run by professional journalists who check and double check their sources--and cite multiple and diverse sources--are far, far more trustworthy than are most internet sites.


"Finally, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things."
-Philippians 4:8 (NIV)

Recent interview with TV 3's Bob Corso on "Does The Truth Matter Anymore?"

Friday, August 19, 2016

Important Community Summit Set For 8/27

Please put this on your calendar and register here. Your participation in this non-partisan event, on this important subject, can help make a positive difference in our community.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Some Telltale Signs Of Faulty Reasoning

Dr. Michael C. Labossiere has put together a comprehensive list of logical fallacies, a fallacy defined as an error in reasoning in which the premises in an argument do not provide logical or reasonable support for the conclusion reached.

A common example is the "false generalization," in which people argue that because some people of a given group are known for certain behaviors, that this is true for all members of the group. This is similar to the fallacy of “guilt by association,” where someone is accused of believing and behaving like those with whom they have collaborated in some previous and maybe random way.

Another common fallacy is “two wrongs make a right,” making the case that because someone else or some other group is doing something reprehensible, that what I or we are doing is justifiable or is not so bad.

Then, of course, a favorite one is the "ad hominem" argument, where we attack the bearer of the message as a bad person, then insist that nothing that person says is worth hearing or believing.

Not only does the use of such logical fallacies abound in opinion pieces and on editorial pages, we use them in our personal relationships and in our endless arguments with our co-workers, friends and family members.

The truth is our friend. Let’s make sure we make every effort to speak the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, and always in a spirit of care and respect.

Here's a helpful link to Labossiere's complete list of 42 logical fallacies, complete with explanations and examples. You can feel free to refer to it to point out whenever I'm inadvertently guilty of employing some them myself.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Change In Thirteenth Amendment Urged By American Correctional Association

photo courtesy of  "Prison is the New Slavery"  website
The ACA is a nationwide association which sets accreditation standards for U.S. jails and prisons. Neither our local jail nor the MRRJ is yet accredited by the ACA, though the nearby Albemarle/Charlottesville Regional Jail is.

Here's the text of the resolution passed at the ACA national conference in Boston last week:

WHEREAS, Section 1 of the Thirteenth Amendment of the Constitution provides that “neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the united states;” and

WHEREAS, the American Correctional Association decries the historical applicability of slavery and involuntary servitude as acceptable punishments for those convicted of crimes; and

WHEREAS, in its “Code of Ethics”, the American Correctional Association expresses that it “expects of its members unfailing honesty and respect for the dignity and individuality of human beings;” and

WHEREAS, the “Declaration of Principles” of the American Correctional Association stipulates that we have “a special responsibility to protect from harm those who are involuntarily under (our) care and control” and that “contemporary standards for health care, offender classification, due process, fire and building safety, nutrition, personal well-being, and clothing and shelter must be observed;” and

WHEREAS, the American Correction Association believes that periods of incarceration should not be imposed as punishment for crime, but should be utilized to provide activities that enhance self-worth, community integration and economic status through work, education, vocational training, counseling, medical, mental health care and restorative justice programs; and now

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the American Correctional Association finds the ‘Exclusion Clause’ to Section 1 of the Thirteenth Amendment of the Constitution to be inconsistent with its basic founding principles and standards; and now

THEREFORE BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the American Correctional Association supports amendment of the Constitution to repeal the “Exclusion Clause.”