Friday, September 27, 2013

My Latest Civics Experiment: 8 Simple Questions, 6 Statewide Candidates, 3 Honest Tries = Zero Acknowledgments or Responses

Sic Semper Captivis?
As a long time advocate for prisoners in the Commonwealth, I decided I'd try emailing the following questions to candidates for Governor, Lt. Governor and Commonwealths Attorney. I realize the list might have been overly long, and that I should have probably limited my inquiry to two or three items, but here's what I sent out August 11, expecting a lot of simple Yes answers:

• Do you support initiatives like that of Governor McDonnell's Task Force on Alternative Sentencing for Nonviolent Offenders?

• Do you support ongoing funding for re-entry and rehabilitation programs like the Harrisonburg Diversion Center, Gemeinschaft Home (Rockingham County) and Piedmont House (Albemarle County)?

• Would you support legislation banning the use of the restraint chair and the isolated padded cell for mentally ill and suicidally depressed inmates in our jails?

• Would you support a continued moratorium on new prison construction in favor of alternatives to incarceration like GPS monitoring technology for appropriate pretrial and post trial cases involving nonviolent offenders who could work to support their families and pay their court costs and fines?

• Do you support recent proposals to restore voting rights to rehabilitated offenders?

• Do you support greater utilization of Virginia’s Geriatric Parole Statute (Code § 53.1-40.01) as a way of reducing the growing cost of health care for aging inmates who no longer pose any danger to society?

• Do you favor reinstating parole in Virginia and offering reduced time for inmates who utilize every opportunity to rehabilitate themselves in prison and prepare for effective reentry?

• Would you support all inmates being supplied with the ID they need to be able to apply for jobs, driver's licenses, etc., upon release?

Here are the responses so far to that original email:

Candidates for Governor
Ken Cuccinelli   0 
Terry McAuliffe  0

Candidates for Lieutenant Governor
Bishop E.W. Jackson, Sr.  0 
Ralph Northam  0

Candidates for Attorney General
Mark Obenshain  0

Mark R. Herring  0

After two weeks, I followed up with a first-class letter with the same questions, dated August 28, and with the following responses:

Ken Cuccinelli   0 
Terry McAuliffe   0

Bishop E.W. Jackson, Sr.  0 
Ralph Northam   0

Mark Obenshain   0

Mark R. Herring   0

After two more weeks (August 13), I decided to try a phone call. Since the Democratic candidates listed no phone number on their websites, I followed up with them with another email contact, resulting in the following responses:

Ken Cuccinelli:  Staffer who answered the phone apologized and said they would check this out, but I have yet to hear anything.
Terry McAuliffe:  0  

Bishop E.W. Jackson, Sr.:  Staff member asked me to resend the email, and sincerely promised to give this top priority. Still no response so far.
Ralph Northam  0

Mark Obenshain:  Staff member said they don't have time to respond to "surveys" but would get back to me with some kind of response soon. Have yet to hear anything.

Mark R. Herring  0

Again, in all fairness, I should have limited the number of questions I asked. And apparently I should have realized that each of these candidates (and their campaign staffs) have more urgent priorities--like trying to persuade citizens like me to vote for them.

Or should I just consider this a case of "three strikes and you're out"?
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