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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Numbed By The Numbers: Some Reflections on Monday’s Forum

9,000,000   Current number of prisoners worldwide

39%           Number of those prisoners housed in the US

4.5%          US percentage of the world’s population

Some fifty interested local citizens met at the Massanutten Regional Library Monday to hear three panelists discuss ways GPS monitoring of non-violent offenders could provide alternatives to jail for some non-violent offenders. Read more in today’s DNR article on the event.

Judge Brian Shipwash of Davidson County, North Carolina, explained how his community was able reduce its jail population from 379 to 243 and avoid having to build a proposed new $50 million jail. With the money they saved, they were able to finance a new middle school instead. Much of this saving was the result of changes in bond requirements for, and better monitoring of, persons awaiting trial.

Local pastor Mike Donovan described how his non-profit Nexus Programs, which provides both monitoring and mentoring services for offenders, is saving money and saving lives in communities across Virginia and parts of North Carolina. In an area map projected on a screen, he showed how their GPS monitoring system tracked every move of local volunteer Earl Martin during the past week while he wore one of their bracelets.

William Wiesband a bondsman from Fredericksburg who is also passionate about finding more alternatives to incarceration, heads up a program called Private Pretrial Reports. Wiesband lamented the fact that in the United States there were 139 persons in the US incarcerated per 100,000 population, in 2008, that number exceeded 500 per 100,000.

Here are some contacts you can make to express your concerns about criminal justice and jail related issues:

1. Actively promote recommendations of Governor McDonnell’s task force on alternative sentencing for nonviolent offenders:

State Senator Mark Obenshain mark@markobenshain.com
Assembly Delegate Tony Wilt  DelTWilt@house.virginia.gov
Assembly Delegate Robb Bell  Delrbell@house.state.va.us
Commonwealth Attorney Marsha Garst  mgarst@rockinghamcountyva.gov
Editor, Daily News-Record  letters@dnronline.com

2.  Appeal to the Sheriff and to Community Services Board (the mental health providers at our local jail) to provide alternatives to the use of the restraint chair and the isolated padded cell for mentally ill and suicidally depressed inmates:

Bryan Hutcheson  bhutcheson@rockinghamcountyva.gov
Lacy Whitmore  lwhitm@hrcsb.org
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