Pages

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

On The Seventh Day Of Christmas--Prayerful Thanks To Blog Readers And Radio Listeners

"I pray for good fortune in everything you do, and for your good health—that your everyday affairs prosper, as well as your soul." 
II John 2 (the Message)

Thanks for all of the encouragement many of you have given me in my blog writing as well as for radio spots and other occasional articles and op-ed pieces. Without readers and listeners, there would be little point in publishing, although sometimes venting and reflecting does offer me some needed therapy.

I had no idea how Harvspot would fare when I posted my first entry on November 25, 2010, but it's gratifying to see the number of page visits steadily increase over the years, reaching nearly 6000 this month. That's certainly not spectacular as blog sites go, but it does help make the effort feel worthwhile. Plus many of these entries can be adapted and recycled for the radio spots or used in other ways.

I always value your feedback, although you have to be a Google member to post comments on the blog itself. Sometimes I also get a response on some of the Facebook links.

To find older posts, type in a topic or title you're looking for (in the search box in the upper left hand corner of the screen). Or to do some browsing of past posts, scroll down and click on to "Older Posts" at the bottom of the page.

Have a blessed and purposeful New Year!

The 90-second Centerpiece radio spots are aired locally as follows: 
WEMC 91.7 FM 11:58 am (M-F) Sun 7:58
WBTX 1470 AM 9:20 am (M-F)
WNLR 1150 AM 11:28 am (M,W,F)

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

On The Sixth Day Of Christmas--Pray For Our Children and Grandchildren

Pinterest image
"Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it."
Proverbs 22:6 (NLT)

Someone has said that what this oft-quoted "train up a child" text might really mean is that whatever good instruction we give our children will never leave them. At any rate, most of us parents have one wish above all others, that we successfully pass on a strong faith and a good set of values to our children and grandchildren.

But none of us is perfect, and even if we were, it would not guarantee that our children would be. Every human being has the right, indeed the God-given  responsibility, to make personal choices. And even God's very first children didn't make all wise ones.

I once heard someone say that our real success as parents has less to do with what kind of children we raise as it does with what kind of grandchildren we produce. At any rate, Alma Jean and I thank God every day for being blessed with three children and six grandchildren who are far, far better than we deserve. But we know they all face challenges and temptations greater than any of ours in previous generations.

For example, will our offsprings' constant access to screen-based entertainment rob them of good connections with the real world of nature and of other people? Will increased wealth and an ever easier and comfortable life detract from their willingness to work and serve in self-giving ways? Will they form strong bonds with supportive communities of faith in which they will be able, if so led, to grow strong families of their own? And will they be able to live by the above six "family rules" in all their relationships?

Pray with me, on this sixth day of Christmas, that our future generations of grandmen and women will do far better than we in making this a truly God-blessed world.

Monday, December 29, 2014

On The Fifth Day Of Christmas--Pray For A Planet Kept Clean And Livable

"The Lord God placed the human in the Garden of Eden as its gardener, to tend and care for it." Genesis 2:15 Living Bible

The very first mandate given us in the book of Genesis is to take care of the earth, to exercise responsible oversight of it on God's behalf. As caretakers created in God's image, we are entrusted with the wise stewardship of creation. 

Sadly, most people have chosen to exploit the planet for short term gain rather than preserve and care for it as the unique, life-giving treasure it is. Huge areas of rain forests ("the lungs of the planet") are being destroyed at an alarming rate to provide more grazing land to meet increased demands for ever more red meat in our diets. Coal burning power plants spew tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every day due to our insatiable need for increased power, resulting in the planet warming at an alarming rate.

Good planets, like healthy bodies, require diligent care. We know we expect to be able to abuse our bodies with alcohol, nicotine and other drugs, or with too many carbs, harmful fats, sugars and sodium, without paying a heavy price. In the same way the harm we do to the earth may become devastating and irreparable.

On this fifth day of Christmas pray with me that we will be responsible caretakers of our rich soil, pure water, clean air and all of the resources with which we have been blessed.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

On The Fourth Day Of Christmas--Pray For Respect And Goodwill Toward People Of All Faiths (and no faith)


"All who are wicked will be punished with trouble and suffering. It doesn’t matter if they are Jews or Gentiles. But all who do right will be rewarded with glory, honor, and peace, whether they are Jews or Gentiles. God doesn’t have any favorites!"

Romans 2:9-11 (Contemporary English Version

At a time when ISIS forces are making headlines with horrific acts of violence toward Christians and members of faiths with whom they disagree, and when western-led forces representing so-called "Christian" nations are making drone and other attacks that result in untold carnage, relationships between members of major world religions are strained as never before. We forget that God loves all people, and that Muslims, Jews and Christians alike claim to serve the God of Abraham and Sarah as revealed in our sacred texts. And we Christians likewise forget that Jesus' only teaching regarding enemies who persecute and hate us is to respond by returning good for evil rather than exacting revenge.

I've never been one to promote the idea that all religions are the same, that we should just forget about our differences and blend everything religious together into one generic faith. On the contrary, I feel that whatever I or others truly believe as our "way, truth and life" we should respectfully promote and affirm without apology.

But we can't get others to even consider our own faith if we are inconsiderate of theirs, and certainly not if we are hostile toward them. Jesus never lashed out against Samaritans or called them heretics. Nor did he ridicule or insult the religion of Romans or of other Gentile idol worshipers of his time. In fact, the only religious teachers or teachings he lashed out against were unloving dogmatics within his own strongly held Jewish faith.

And certainly if we are to love and pray for even our enemies we should love and respect all of our many friends around the world who follow the faith of their choice--just as we would have them respect ours. It's the Golden Rule.

Besides, we'll never be able to influence people we can't love.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

On The Third Day Of Christmas--Pray For The Release Of Long Held Prisoners

read more on Virginia Public Radio website
"I, the Lord, have called you... to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness."
Isaiah 42:6-7 NIV


Imagine spending half of your time every day confined to a space as small as a medium size bathroom. At meal times and some other times you live in equally crowded spaces surrounded by concrete walls and barbed wire, never able to get away from the hundreds of fellow detainees with whom you share a concentration-camp-like environment for years on end. 

Whether detained for just or for unjust reasons, decades of such confinement result in an unusually cruel form of punishment.

So pray with me on this third day of Christmas for the humane release of three people such as the following:

Mr. A. Jefferson Grissette #1143033, currently at St, Brides Correctional Center in Chesapeake was free on parole and doing well just three years ago. He had a good job, was working full time, paying off his debts and getting his life together. Unfortunately, he became a convenient suspect in a credit card theft case in Arlington because of some similar crimes for which he had been convicted earlier in his life. The only evidence against him was based on his resembling an obscure image caught on a surveillance camera. Without due process, he got another 18 years in prison after being urged to take a plea agreement rather than face a jury trial.

Also please pray for the release of men like Mr. Nat Painter #1009725, age 73, who is still incarcerated for a crime he committed 20 years ago, but who has consistently demonstrated good behavior in prison, and only wants a few remaining years of a normal life with his loved ones. He has repeatedly been denied parole in spite of his almost certainly not being any further danger to society. His address is Coffeewood Correctional Center, 12352 Coffeewood Drive, Mitchells, VA 22792.

Virginia Public Radio
Likewise, pray for the release of Mr. Jens Soering #1161655, age 48, to his native Germany. Jens, whom I met at the Buckingham Correctional Center a couple of months ago, has just spent his 29th Christmas in a Virginia prison for a crime he says he foolishly confessed to at age 20 to save his then girl friend from being convicted of capital murder. As a son of a German diplomat he assumed he would be sent to Germany for a trial and get a lesser sentence. When she testified against him he got two life sentences here and she got 90 years. Jens has had nine books published since his incarceration. His address is BKCC, P.O. Box 430, Dillwyn, VA 23936-0430.

For an excellent Washington Post column by George Will on mandatory sentencing, check this link.

And here's a good article on the increasing numbers of aging citizens in our prisons.

Friday, December 26, 2014

For The Second Day Of Christmas--Pray For An End To Separation Barriers

"For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility."  

(Ephesians 2:14 NIV)

Whether it be the Berlin Wall, the barrier fence on our U.S.-Mexican border, or Israel's Separation Barrier (seen here) that scars the Holy Land around Bethlehem and the West Bank, there is something in us that "doesn't love a wall", that begs to have it removed.

On the second day of Christmas, a season that for believers has just officially begun, join me in praying that these kinds of physical walls will become a thing of the past. Also that those invisible barriers dividing us along race, class, gender, religious and national lines may be removed by the Prince of Peace, or at least that doors may be opened in them to allow us all full access.

In the vision of the "New Jerusalem" in the Apocalypse (that visionary new city representing the peaceful Lamb's radiant " bride") God's eternal dwelling, established on a new and transformed earth, has secure walls but eternally open gates in all directions. "The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there is no night there." (Revelation 21 NIV)

Pray with me that the world's darkness will be dispelled and all of its walls be destroyed--or to be remade with gates that are forever open and welcoming.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

On The First Day Of Christmas, Pray For New Birth In Hearts Everywhere

Today I begin a series of daily prayers and reflections for each of the twelve days of Christmas. For this first one I borrow from John of the Cross (1542-1591):

source
If you want
the Virgin will come walking down the road
pregnant with the holy,
and say,

“I need shelter for the night,
please take me inside your heart,
my time is so close.”

Then, under the roof of your soul
you will witness the sublime
intimacy, the divine, the Christ
taking birth
forever,
as she grasps your hand for help,
for each of us is the midwife of God, each of us.

Yet there, under the dome of your being does creation
come into existence eternally,
through your womb, dear pilgrim—
the sacred womb in your soul,
as God grasps our arms for help;
for each of us is
His beloved servant
never far.

If you want, the Virgin will come walking
down the street pregnant
with Light and sing …

–St. John of the Cross, “If You Want” in Daniel Ladinsky Love Poems from God: Twelve Sacred Voices from the East and West (New York: Penguin Group, 2002), 306-307.

May Christ truly be 'born in us' on this day.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Meaningful Advent Or "Merry Excessment"?

source
In Sarah Palin's book "Good Tidings and Great Joy: Protecting the Heart of Christmas" she laments the fact that holiday shoppers are no longer greeted with "Merry Christmas" but with the more generic "Happy Holidays". To her, this change is a sure sign that "zealot-like atheists" are waging a "war on Christmas" and are driving us toward secularism and the loss of our Judeo-Christian heritage.

William C. Wood, local professor of economics at James Madison University and a member of the Beaver Creek Church of the Brethren, sees it differently. He believes our national celebration of Christmas has become so pagan and anti-Christian that we ought to just call it what it is, a "Merry Excessmas", and call the Christian celebration something else, like "Holy Nativity" (or "Feliz Navidad").

Dr. Wood had a piece promoting this idea published in the Wall Street Journal a number of years ago, and has been crusading for this change ever since. Just separating the two celebrations, he believes, would make things a lot cleaner and clearer. Let the rest of the world have the greed-based holiday Christmas has become and have the rest of us observe a true "Christ-mass", an authentic "Holy-day".

Of course, if we are really serious about observing Christmas, we should remember that (according to the Christian calendar) most of December was never intended be "Merry" anyway, but a hopeful and prayerful time of waiting we call Advent. The Advent season ends with Nativity, which begins on Christmas Eve, and continues for the "Twelve Days of Christmas".

So in keeping with our Christian tradition, we shouldn't be greeting anyone with "Merry Christmas" anyway until it actually arrives, at which time we celebrate with abandonment. But not necessarily with a lot of soon-to-be-landfill material--manufactured in Bangladesh factories and wrapped in fancy packaging--around our Christmas trees.

According to Dr. Wood, in defending today's kind of "Merry Excessmas" we may be unwittingly waging a war on Advent, and miss what Jesus' birth is all about.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

God Chose To Live In A Mobile Home

Model of the Tabernacle in Timna Park, Israel
"And the Word (Christ) became flesh (human, incarnate) and tabernacled (fixed His tent of flesh, lived awhile) among us..."
John 1:14 (Amplified)

"Wherever I have moved about among all the people of Israel, did I ever speak a word with any of the tribal leaders of Israel..., saying, 'Why have you not built me a house of cedar?'"
2 Samuel 7:7 (NRSV) 

In today's Advent lectionary reading, King David is troubled about the fact that he is living in luxury in a new palace while the ark of the covenant, representing God's presence, remains in a mobile tent.

For over four centuries, ever since their emigration from Egypt, God's visible "home" for the Jewish people was a portable tent rather than a permanent temple. Apparently God preferred it that way, having given elaborate instructions (Exodus 25-27) for this modest size "mobile home" and having never given any direction to build a more elaborate structure dedicated to the worship of God.

King Solomon, claiming God's approval, took it upon himself to build the first permanent Jewish temple, with elaborate features but still relatively small compared to many of today's places of worship. His temple was destroyed and then rebuilt on a somewhat more modest scale under Nehemiah after the Jewish return from their exile in Babylon. 

Model of Herod's temple, Museum of Israel
In Jesus' day King Herod built a beautiful temple that symbolized the hopes of a nation, then under Roman oppression, that was longing for its former glory under King Solomon's rule.

It is clear that Jesus was never impressed by such signs of religious splendor and power. Of all the statements he made that enraged the religious establishment--and most certainly led to his crucifixion--the most inflammatory were those in which he announced that their beloved temple was, in fact, about to be destroyed, with "not one stone left on top of another".

Among the incendiary words of Stephan, the first Christian martyr, that caused him to be stoned to death were, "It was Solomon who built a house for him (God). Yet the Most High does not dwell in houses made by human hands, as the prophet says, 'Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool'" (Acts 7:47-49a). To not show reverence for the temple was considered a sacrilege.

But Jesus, like our spiritual ancestor Abraham, never owned any real estate and chose to consider his followers as his living home, his sacred dwelling. Never once did he instruct his followers to go into all the world and construct buildings for worship, and members of the first century church met in each others' homes and in other available spaces.

God likes tents, prefers to live in mobile homes, in a people who are solely devoted to his mission as announced by the prophet Isaiah:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
    and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free, 
   to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Luke 4:18-19 (NIV) 
 

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Reminder: Send A Card Or Letter To An Inmate

public radio photo
"Remember those in prison as if you were also in bonds, and those who suffer as though you were suffering with them."  
Hebrews 13:3

This year I've suggested that my friends and family members send a Christmas card to someone behind bars rather than to us, and that we sincerely wish them God's blessings and will do the same.

When (not if!) you send your card to one or more of the following (or to some other inmates you know) you can include an article, a photocopy of an inspirational piece, your Christmas letter, etc.. The total should be one ounce or less, and no more than four items:

James E. Bender #1010837 (seeks parole after spending years in prison)
Greensville Correctional Center
901 Corrections Way
Jarratt, VA 23870-6914

Stephano Colosi #1037581 (active advocate for geriatric release for aging prisoners)
Buckingham Correctional Center
P. O. Box 430
Dillwyn, VA 23936-0430

M. Steven W. Goodman #1028377 (active in doing legal research on restoration of parole)
Green Rock Correctional Center
P. O. Box 1000
Chatham, VA 24531

A. Jefferson Grissette #1143033 (wrongfully sentenced based on plea bargain and photo line-up)
St. Brides Correctional Facility
P.O. Box 16482
Chesapeake, VA 23328

Nat Painter 1009725 (age 73, incarcerated 19 years, denied geriatric release in spite of good record)
Coffeewood Correctional Center
12352 Coffeewood Drive
Mitchells, VA 22792

Jens Soering #1161655 (German author, age 47, in prison since 1986 for a wrongful confession)
Buckingham Correctional Center
P.O. Box 430
Dillwyn, VA 23936-0430

Jonathan D. White #1161021 (has worked hard to earn parole, has been denied year after year)
Augusta Correctional Center
1821 Estaline Valley Road
Craigsville VA 24430


Charles E. Zellers, Sr. #1036758 (also denied parole year after year in spite of an excellent record)
Buckingham Correctional Center B1-113-T
P.O. Box 430
Dillwyn, VA 23936

If for whatever reason you prefer not to include your return address with your letter, you can have the person respond to me and I'll relay their message to you (assuming I have your contact information). In my 50-plus years of corresponding with individuals in prison I have never had any problems resulting from disclosing my address, but some people do recommend against it.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

A Festival Of Lights

Menorah candles
In him was life, and the life was the light of humankind. The light shines on in the darkness, and the darkness has never overcome it.
- Gospel of John 1:4-5 

At Sunday evening's service with members of neighboring house churches we reflected on the connection between the Jewish celebration of Hanukkah--which this year begins at sundown on December 16 and ends on Christmas Eve Day--and our season of Advent. Each of these festivals celebrates the miracle of light.

At one point we sat in total darkness as we listened to Handel's Aria "The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light", from the Messiah. We then introduced a single Christ candle representing the "great light" portrayed in the book of Isaiah. This was followed by each person lighting one of numerous candles on a table in front of the room.

Elly Nelson then led us in the lighting of the first Chanukah candle, with the Hebrew blessing, "Ba-ruch a-tah A-do-nai, El-o-hei-nu Me-lech Ha-O-lam, a-sher kid-de-sha-nu b’mitz-vo-tav,  ve-tzi-va-nu, le-had-lik ner Cha-nu-kah," or "Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with Your commandments, and has commanded us to kindle the lights of Hanukkah."

Visible light is a fitting metaphor for God's light and life. Light has physical properties like intensity, frequency and speed--a constant 299,792,458 meters per second--whereas darkness has no measurable properties. It simply represents the absence of light.

The more pervasive the darkness, the more powerful and life-changing the light. We experienced the visual effect of that in ending our service by turning every light possible back on in the Great Room of the Old Massanutten Lodge. In total contrast to the pitch darkness one would experience in the now padlocked Massanutten Caverns next to our place of meeting, we celebrated a great light indeed.

In this Advent season, we long for God's "light of life eternal" to illumine, inspire, expose, and to give us much needed clarity and direction.

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Final Hours Of Local Inmate 1970-2014

For some, jail may feel like entering Dante's Inferno
Little is known of the 44-year-old African-American male found dead in his cell at 10:10 am Sunday, December 7, hanging from the ceiling of his solitary cell.

What we do know is that this individual was arrested and brought to jail on an assault and battery charge on the Friday just prior to his death. This is the worst day of the week to be apprehended, since one may have to wait until Monday to be classified and placed in regular population.

After being processed, all belongings are taken from an individual and he or she waits to see the magistrate, who has an office on the first floor of the jail. This official, a minor judicial officer, determines whether bond can be set or whether that should be determined at a later bond hearing in court--usually the next day except in the case of a weekend or holiday. In this case, Monday would have been the earliest possible date for such a hearing.

This inmate was detained because bond was either denied or delayed, or was set by the magistrate but the inmate was unable to find anyone on the outside willing to pay a bondsman the required 10% fee. Bondsmen are available on a 24-hour basis, and are there to cover the cost of the bond based on the magistrate's judgement as to the seriousness of the crime and/or the likelihood of the person being a flight risk. If bond is set at $3000, for instance, a $300 payment to the bondsman is required for release. No legal representation is available at this step in the process.

In this case the arrested individual, unable to secure bond release but not yet charged with a crime (and by law presumably innocent until proven guilty), would have been moved to a holding cell in the basement level of the facility. Though this area is typically very cold, one is not given  a blanket, sheet or mattress, and here one may have the company of numerous recently arrested persons going through withdrawal from alcohol or drug abuse.

Usually sometime between midnight and 4 am the following morning one is stripped, showered, given  an orange jumpsuit to wear and eventually taken upstairs to see a nurse for a brief check over. If one is on some kind of psychotropic medication, such may be denied or withheld until a later time when the Nurse Practitioner from the Community Services Board (who spends three hours a week at the jail) can write a new prescription from an approved list. Detox medications are normally not provided, and even some meds for severe anxiety or schizophrenia may be denied.

After seeing the RN on duty one is given a tub of basic hygiene items, some writing materials, sheets and a blanket and is put into a classification unit.  These are single cells with a mattress on a steel cot built into the wall. The solid metal door has a tray slot for food and a little lift up door officers open to look in during their rounds, made every 30 minutes to an hour. No counselor or chaplain is available.

This classification cell represents a form of solitary confinement. One has no access to a phone or to any other human contact. After hours in segregation one is praying to be placed in a pod and to get out of this small steel enclosure.

In this case the inmate's level of suicidal distress and despair, apparently not detected by the nurse as putting his life at risk, led him to take a sheet and hang himself between the rounds made by the officer in charge.

I know the good people who work in the jail are overworked and underpaid, but this inmate's death clearly reminds us of our community's need to provide better treatment, including mental health and chaplain services, for people we incarcerate.

In addition, our jail bond system appears to need reform, according to the recently issued Moseley report, as well as our needing to have a more careful screening take place at intake and generally providing a more humane and less isolated environment for detainees. Building a secure detox and treatment center, perhaps one located on the RMH campus, may be the more appropriate option for many who are now brought directly to jail.

We need to do everything possible to ease despair and prevent suicides in our jail. This gentleman's life should not have ended this way. He should have been able to have his day in court and to be assured of a chance for a new and better life.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

A Strange Kind Of Manger Power

Lin Wellford rock painting
The Christmas story in Luke’s gospel begins by naming the head of the major super power of the day, the Roman empire's Caesar Augustus. He issues a decree that "all the world should be taxed” and the writer notes that this census was first taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And in Matthew’s gospel King Herod, puppet governor of Roman-occupied Judea, is named as well.

These were ruthless, powerful men under whose occupation rebellions were met with brutal force. Subjects who dared to defy them were crucified, beaten or beheaded as a way of keeping the population intimidated and under submission.

And like many monarchs of his time, Emperor Caesar Augustus claimed to be a divine son of God, and a God himself, with titles like "Lord", "God from God", "Liberator"and "Savior of the World". So the early gospel writers were placing their lives in jeopardy by claiming divine birth for a child born of a peasant girl in an occupied country, one whose revolutionary and worldwide new kingdom, to be ruled justly by Yahweh alone, was to prevail over the entire earth--just as it was in heaven.

Citizens of such a government, whose treasonous pledge of allegiance is "Jesus is Lord" rather than the required "Caesar is Lord" are frequently martyred for their heresy. And Herod commanded that all male children in the area around Bethlehem be killed out of his fear of a coming rival.

All of which makes Christmas more than just about festivity and merrymaking, but a bold announcement about who, and what power, is really sovereign, a declaration that still divides the world in two.

Two thousand years later no one knows or cares much about the Roman empire's Caesar Augustus or his contemporaries King Herod of Judea or Governor Quirinius of Syria. It is the babe in the manger who still commands the greater allegiance.

From a FLRC Centerpiece radio spots aired locally on WEMC 91.7 FM 11:58 am M-F and Sun 7:58, WBTX 1470 AM 4:20 pm M-F and WNLR 1150 AM 11:28 am M,W,F.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

[satire alert] A Sincere Letter Requesting State Funds For The Construction Of A $63 Million Jail (in the unlikely event we decide to build one, which we probably won't, but we do need to get in line for the free money)

This attempt at some tongue-in-cheek humor about our community's fast track process (in applying for state money for possible jail construction) is not meant to offend. I continue to highly value, respect and pray for all of our local policy makers.

Dear friends in Richmond,

Here is our sincere request for a half of the construction cost of a second jail we may decide to build right next to our County/City Landfill, where we deposit our refuse and where we hope we won't get a lot of "NIMBY" (not in my backyard) from local residents.

As you will see below, we've done everything required in order to get in line for millions in state matching funds, money we understand comes from taxes levied elsewhere (hopefully outside the commonwealth, but certainly outside our Valley). We're not the richest locality in the state, so we could sure use this form of public assistance, and as you will see, we've taken all the steps necessary to qualify for it--and in a fraction of the time the City of Richmond took to go through a similar process. We went through all the steps in a mere five months instead of their five years, then wrapped everything up this week in three days. Is that speedy or what?

Step One: As you can see, we've already come up with the mandatory Community-Based Corrections Plan, one that's required to show how we are going to reduce the number of people we put behind bars while at the same time proving that we need to increase the number of beds available to put more people behind bars. That seemed a little tricky for us to pull off, and since our time was really short to get in line for the free money by our end-of-year deadline, we decided to outsource this inconvenience to a group in Richmond who can do this sort of thing quickly, and at just over $1000 a page. And as the report shows, over the past two decades we've found ways to add five times the number of people we have in our jail, while our population has grown only 25% and our crime rate is actually decreasing.  We sincerely hope all this makes sense to you!

Step Two. You also require that we have a twenty-member Community Criminal Justice Board to give their approval to such a plan and to advise and to oversee such matters. This was a fairly easy step, since all of the members of the CCJB are good folks who are already on our local government payroll, and most of them are salaried by the very criminal justice system they are to oversee. I'm sure you can see how this made things a lot simpler!

Knowing we were so short of time this group met within two weeks of copies of the Richmond-produced Community-Based Corrections Plan first being available. Their first action was to approve the minutes of their last meeting of just over a year ago, which shows that the group meets at least annually. And in spite of their busy schedules, they took the time to give their unanimous approval in short order, in a room packed with 150 cranky citizens from the community who were there to observe the process and to show their wish for more time for a community-based study that might involve, for example, some Restorative Justice alternatives in some cases. But the 20-member CCJB  fearlessly moved to approve the Richmond plan with no actual debate and no dissent. What a miracle!

Step Three: On the very next evening the five-man City Council met to give its approval to what the CCJB had just passed the day before. Only one member of the Council voted against it, and three others declared they didn't think a jail would (or even should) actually be built, but that it was their responsibility to apply for all the free money they could get in order to build another jail in case they decided later they needed a second jail after all. We hope all this makes sense!

It certainly makes sense to us, in spite of the fact that all the citizens packed in the meeting room were opposed to asking for assistance for additional jail space at $200,000 per bed and with an annual $10 million estimated operating cost. These disgruntled types just couldn't seem to understand that all the Council wanted to do was to have everyone vote for the proposal so that those who wished could then later vote against it. Yet in spite of their best efforts to explain this, the naysayers in the room just couldn't grasp the concept. So it appears that not only are we not the richest locality in the state, we're probably not the brightest, either, given this inability to convince the opposition of how much this actually makes sense, as it really and truly does, doesn't it?

Final Step: The very next afternoon the five-man County Board of Supervisors met to add its stamp of approval. All went smoothly as planned. The chair graciously expressed appreciation for the several dozen dissenters in the room, all those still not sure this kind of speed and efficiency is always good when it comes to $63 million questions. These attendees included, by the way, one 14-year-old young woman who had gathered over two hundred petition signatures (making now nearly 1000 in all, including an online version) of people who felt we should take more time instead of getting all this wrapped up in three days, just in time for Santa Claus (needless to say, we're great fans of the Richmond-based St. Nick!).

In conclusion, we hope all of you are impressed by how efficiently and agreeably we work together on things like this when we have to--and when there's money involved. With only one supervisor and one council member voting No, it also shows you how well we all get along and go along.

So please, please, give us a place--in whatever line we need to be in--for the free money. We'll figure out later exactly how we're going to use it.

Sincerely,

Harrisonburg City Council
Rockingham County Board of Supervisors


P.S. Here is an audio link to the good conversation among members of the Harrisonburg city council on Tuesday. They, like our supervisors, are all good people who want what's best for our community and who have stated their willingness to hear from us:

<iframe scrolling="no" style="border:0" width="320" height="270" id="GranicusFlashPlayerFrame" src="http://harrisonburg-va.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?clip_id=231&view_id=4&embed=1&player_width=320&player_height=240&entrytime=4450&stoptime=6405&auto_start=0"></
iframe>


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Western Lunatic Asylum--In 1828, A State Of The Art Facility

Western State Hospital photo
It seemed like a great idea at the time. Get all of the mentally ill off the streets and into a hospital-like setting. What could go wrong?

Virginia was the first of the colonies to build a facility devoted solely to house the "insane and feeble minded". A Quaker hospital in Philadelphia had a unit for such unfortunates, but they were all confined in the basement of the facility.

In a November, 1766, session of the House of Burgesses, Francis Fauquier, then Royal Governor of the colony of Virginia, proposed: "It is expedient I should also recommend to your Consideration and Humanity a poor unhappy set of People who are deprived of their senses and wander about the Country, terrifying the Rest of their fellow creatures. A legal Confinement, and proper Provision, ought to be appointed for these miserable Objects, who cannot help themselves. Every civilized Country has an Hospital for these People, where they are confined, maintained and attended by able Physicians, to endeavor to restore to them their lost reason."[1]
 
In that day this kind of "legal confinement" was seen as the most humane and enlightened way to deal with the mentally ill, and in 1770, the Public Hospital for Persons of Insane and Disordered Minds was established in Willamsburg. When this institution became overcrowded, a second asylum was approved by the General Assembly, the Staunton-based "Western Lunatic Asylum" that later became Western State Hospital. Opened in 1828, it was originally designed provide a calming and comfortable setting in which people could regain their sanity and return to normal life.

(In 1861 the Staunton-based facility renamed the Central Lunatic Asylum, but a new hospital built in Petersburg for people of color would soon take on this name, and in 1894 the former "lunatic asylum" was officially named Western State Hospital.)

The enlightened plans of the hospital's founder and director, Dr. Francis Stribling, were soon compromised, however, by lack of sufficient state funds allocated to maintain this kind of idyllic setting. As more and more beds were added, Western State became just another place where society's undesirables could be conveniently put away and warehoused, many of them for life.

In time it became apparent that the best and most therapeutic environment for people to receive mental health care was in the context of their own families and communities, and a program of "de-institutionalization" in the 60's and '70's resulted in the formation of Community Service Boards throughout the state to provide care and treatment. For a time the main campus of Western State was turned into a state prison, the Staunton Correctional Center. Little renovation was necessary since WHS had become largely a place for confining people and keeping them separate from the rest of society.

During its long history, Western State, like other institutions of its time, practiced inhumane forms of restraint, seclusion, and even prefrontal lobotomies. Dr. Josepf DeJarnette, a well known physician and a strong proponent of eugenics, became superintendent in 1905, and during his 38-year tenure many patients were sterilized based on the belief that mental illness was largely a genetic condition.

After World War II, the use of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) and new psychotropic drugs changed many of the ways society treated mental illness. Today, the old site of the former Western State hospital, which at its peak housed 3000 patients, is being renovated into upscale condominiums called Villages at Staunton. Swords into plowshares?

What are the lessons to be learned as we attempt to address other social problems today? How can we employ proven best practices in treating people with substance addictions, for example, or who are charged with violating the law?

Sunday, December 7, 2014

My New And Revised 2014 Christmas Card List

Adoration of the Shepherds by Guido Reni
"Remember those in prison as if you were also in bonds, and those who suffer as though you were suffering with them."  Hebrews 13:2

One good way to "remember" this year is by sending a Christmas card to someone behind bars. It will mean more than you can imagine.

You can include an article, a photocopy of an inspirational piece, your Christmas letter, etc., (total of one ounce or less, and no more than four items) and send it to one or more of the following persons, or to some other inmates you know. It may totally make their day:

James E. Bender #1010837 (seeks parole after spending years in prison)
Greensville Correctional Center
901 Corrections Way
Jarratt, VA 23870-6914

Stephano Colosi #1037581 (active advocate for geriatric release for aging prisoners)
Buckingham Correctional Center
P. O. Box 430
Dillwyn, VA 23936-0430

M. Steven W. Goodman #1028377 (active in doing legal research on restoration of parole)
Green Rock Correctional Center
P. O. Box 1000
Chatham, VA 24531

A. Jefferson Grissette #1143033 (wrongfully sentenced based on plea bargain and photo line-up)
St. Brides Correctional Facility
P.O. Box 16482
Chesapeake, VA 23328

Ferlin Hevener #26055 (seeks parole based on good behavior record in prison)
One Mountainside Way
Mt. Olive, WV 25185

Nat Painter 1009725 (age 73, incarcerated 19 years, denied geriatric release in spite of good record)
Coffeewood Correctional Center
12352 Coffeewood Drive
Mitchells, VA 22792

Jens Soering #1161655 (German author, age 47, in prison since 1986 for a wrongful confession)
Buckingham Correctional Center
P.O. Box 430
Dillwyn, VA 23936-0430

Jonathan D. White #1161021 (has worked hard to earn parole, has been denied year after year)
Augusta Correctional Center
1821 Estaline Valley Road
Craigsville VA 24430


Charles E. Zellers, Sr. #1036758 (also denied parole year after year in spite of an excellent record)
Buckingham Correctional Center B1-113-T
P.O. Box 430
Dillwyn, VA 23936

If for whatever reason you prefer not to include your return address with your letter, you can have the person respond to me and I'll relay their message to you (assuming I have your contact information). In my 50-plus years of corresponding with individuals in prison I have never had any problems resulting from disclosing my address, but some recommend against it.

Friday, December 5, 2014

On A Fast Track? How My Community Makes A $63 Million Decision

Monday's meeting here at 4pm in the Fire and Rescue room
In spite of my having lived in this area most of my adult life, I've never paid much attention to how members of the Harrisonburg City Council and the Rockingham County Board of Supervisors conduct their business.

However, recent steps taken to apply for matching money for a second jail got my attention in a big way, based on my lifelong concern for rehabilitating, rather than merely incarcerating, ever more of our offenders.

Here's a timeline of some of the steps taken so far in the process of applying for "free"(?) state money to build a second $63 million jail

Spring 2014:  Local legislators outsourced the state mandated "Community-Based Corrections Study" to a Richmond firm,  Moseley Architects, at a cost to taxpayers of $120,000. The state requires that this must include concrete steps to reduce the number of people we incarcerate as well as to make the case for more jail space if deemed necessary (our jail numbers have increased by 500% since 1995 while our crime rates have not, and our area population has grown by only 25%).

Note: The Moseley firm was involved in the study that went into the design and construction of the present maximum security jail on South Liberty Street in 1995. This replaced an existing jail with a capacity of 70 inmates. Our present one, built for 208 but double bunked to hold up to twice that number, is poorly designed to serve the needs of its majority of non-violent offenders.

August 7, 11 and 14: Open hearings on the matter were held at Spotswood High School, the City Council Chamber and at Turner Ashby High School.  According to the Moseley report, "Most citizens attending the public “Listening Sessions,” were vocally opposed to expanding jail capacity and expressed frustrations at what they perceived was a lack of jail alternative programs and treatment options for persons processed through the local criminal justice system."

Note: Actually, no one actually spoke out in favor of building a second jail, but many encouraged options like the use of Restorative Justice, the use of more GPS ankle monitoring systems for home incarceration (but allowing persons to continue their employment), more treatment options for drug offenders, etc.

November 20: Moseley Architects issued its report, which recommends a $63 million second jail to be built next to the County Landfill, but also includes recommendations for alternatives like making bond available to more of the 40% of jail inmates who are presently in jail awaiting trial, having a Drug Court that would focus more on treatment alternatives to incarceration, establishing a Day Reporting program such as already proven successful in reducing jail numbers, etc. The report includes no mention of restorative justice, however, in spite of the fact that the Fairfield Center and EMU's Center for Justice and Peacebuilding have for years been pioneers in this internationally recognized process. Neither was ever contacted by Moseley.

Note: The City of Richmond recently engaged in a five year (rather than a five month) study prior to building a new jail.

December 8:  A 20-member Community Criminal Justice Board, which hasn't met in over a year, will convene to give its approval before the proposal for state funding for the $63 million proposal can go forward (with an estimated $10 million additional annual budget for operating costs).   This meeting, set for 4 pm Monday at the County Administration building at 20 E. Gay Street, is open to the public but is not an open hearing. 

Note some interesting facts about the membership of the CCJB as mandated by the state:

1. It is made up entirely of people with government-funded positions.
2. The majority of its members are a part of the very criminal justice system they are appointed to oversee.
3. With the exception of the chairman of the County Board of Supervisors and the Mayor of Harrisonburg, no one represents the business community or any other part of the private or non-profit sector (such as non-governmental service providers and/or other non-profit service agencies or institutions).
4. The make up of the group bears no resemblance to the racial and ethnic diversity of our community.

December 9: The Harrisonburg City Council will take some kind of formal action on the proposal.

December 10: The County Board of Supervisors will do the same at its 3 pm meeting. 

Note: I know we're having to pay $1 million a year to house some of our inmates at the Middle River Regional Jail just 25-minutes away (which has a capacity of 900 and has never been full), but compared to what we could be investing in as proposed by the Moseley plan this could be seen as a phenomenal bargain.

I welcome any needed corrections or comments.

Click here for more posts on local jail concerns, and here's an interesting link about Virginia's "peculiar" jail system.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Best Christmas Open House Yet


Gemeinschaft Home, a 40-bed residential facility, is about to celebrate its 30th year
Gemeinschaft Home is having what looks like its best year in all of its 30-year history.

As a long time board member, I am happy to invite you hear more at the 2014 Christmas Reception and Open House this Sunday afternoon, December 7, at 1423 Mt. Clinton Pike, just west of EMU. Hours are from 1:30 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.

At 2:00 p.m. you are invited to attend an approximately 30-minute informational presentation in the Bender Building behind the main house. An update about our program will be presented by staff and residents. Please join us to learn more about the exciting things happening at Gemeinschaft, and feel free to bring your questions.

Before and after these presentations you are invited to enjoy hot drinks and freshly baked Christmas treats from the Gemeinschaft kitchen. Residents and staff will be available to take you on a brief tour of the House, where you will see a Christmas tree decorated with colorful cards (such as the one below) with names of friends like you.

You can let us know if you can join us by calling Melissa at 434-1690 or email her at exeassistant@gemeinschafthome.com, but you are also welcome to just drop by unannounced. Parking will be available on both the east (upper) and west (lower) sides of the Home.

You are encouraged to make a generous year-end donation when you arrive, or by either mailing it in or giving a gift online. Your support means so much to us and to our residents who are here for the opportunity to have a fresh new start in life after having been incarcerated.

Thanks for caring--and please invite your friends to join us too!

Sam Showalter, Chair,
Gemeinschaft Board of Directors

Other current board members are Timothy Brazill,  John Butler, MuAwia DaMes, Chris Edwards, Don Foth, John Holloran, Randy Hook, Chris Johnson, Larry Hoover, Joan Kauffman, Kay Knichrehm, Sam Miller, Ron Pierantoni, Doris Pye, Everett Ressler and Carl Stauffer.


P. S. Bring your copy of the little card below if you received one in the mail, or you may pick one up when you arrive and have a resident tie it to our Christmas tree as a sign of your support..


                                                                     

Monday, December 1, 2014

15 Statements In the Moseley Architects Report That Could Negate The Need For A Second Jail


Here are 15 remarkable statements from the 140-page Moseley Architects' own "Community-Based Corrections Plan" which, if taken seriously, would reduce or eliminate the need for a second jail for Harrisonburg and Rockingham County (I've inserted the numbers 1-15 and have highlighted some items in bold for emphasis).

p. 115 Adult Drug Court
(1) According to the Virginia Supreme Court “the scientific evidence is overwhelming that adult drug courts reduce crime, reduce substance abuse, improve family relationships, and increase earning potential. In the process drug courts return net dollar savings back to their communities that are at least two to three times the initial investments. According to the National Center for State Courts, in a report entitled “Virginia Adult Drug Treatment Courts,” (October 2012), in fiscal year 2011, Drug Courts in Virginia saved taxpayers $19,234 per person as compared to traditional case processing, and that Drug Courts reduced recidivism rates for the persons completing a program."

p. 121 Day Reporting Centers
(2) Day Reporting can be adapted to a number of different populations. In Virginia, they are utilized 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.




p. 124 Implementing New Programs: The Jail Bed Space Impact

(3) Rockingham - Harrisonburg should 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

p. 127 Inmate Population Forecast
Significant Finding: If existing policies, procedures and administrative practices remain unchanged in the future, the Rockingham-Harrisonburg Regional Jail inmate population (excluding federal prisoners) is projected to reach 524 inmates in FY-21, and 675 inmates by the year FY-29. 

p. 136ff SUMMARY AND RECOMMENDATIONS
(4) Most citizens attending the public “Listening Sessions,” were vocally opposed to expanding jail capacity and expressed frustrations at what they perceived was a lack of jail alternative programs and treatment options for persons processed through the local criminal justice system. 

(5) The evidence uncovered during this project suggests that several key offender groups should be targeted in order to control future jail population growth: (1) offenders in un-sentenced awaiting trial (approximately 40% of the inmate population); (2) probation violators (by a number of measures a disproportionally large offender group), and (3) offenders with substantial substance/mental health issues that are associated with repeated criminal behavior and contribute to the jail’s “revolving door.” 

(6) Increase system coordination, goal setting, oversight and improved planning information and regular dissemination to decision making. 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 of the local system. 

(7) It is recommended that several smaller sub-committees, whose membership consists of persons with specific areas of expertise in various areas of the local system, be established to focus on and investigate portions of the system by 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. 

(8) 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. 

(9) Investigate pretrial confinement policies, procedures and administrative practices. While this report contains an initial profile of persons detained in pretrial status, further investigation is recommended to 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.

(10) Increase current pretrial and local probation staff levels. Decision makers should consider funding new positions rather waiting for the State funding process which can take several years. There should be phased plan for the expansion of Pretrial and Local Probation services and program options to coincide with the jail planning. 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, and certainly does support any future expansion of programs and services in the community. Current staff levels for both pretrial and local probation services are inadequate to cope with current and projected workloads and should be increased (at a minimum) to a level in keeping with the projected growth in the offender population. 

(11) Expand home electronic monitoring and GPS monitoring as pre- and post- trial supervision options. While not widely used in Virginia, effective electronic monitoring of both pretrial and sentenced offenders who would otherwise be incarcerated in jail provides a viable and effective mechanism for controlling jail crowding. 

Investigate/implement an Adult Drug Court program. ...It is widely accepted that Drug Courts reduce recidivism for persons who complete the program. 

Investigate/Implement a Day Reporting program. ...Intermediate sanction programs such as intensive probation supervision, house arrest, electronic monitoring and day reporting are intended to serve as a step between the security and punishment of jails. ...This program has the potential to have a near term impact on jail bed needs by allowing targeted offenders to be removed from jail and admitted to this program. See (2) above


(12) Implement and strengthen new jail-based programs. ...including: Work Release, Education Release, Public Work Force, Electronic Home Monitoring, Weekend Sentencing (non-consecutive sentencing). In the consultants’ experience the jails across Virginia that operate the most robust jail-based programs have several important characteristics in common, they have: (1) sufficient space to provide programs and services (in both housing and support areas); (2) formed viable collaborations with community volunteer and community agency groups; (3) demonstrated commitments to providing programs and services to offenders through their jail operations, and (4) program options that have the support of key decision makers in their communities.

(14) Expand and strengthen reentry services for incarcerated offenders. The nature and extent of existing reentry programming was not entirely clear over the course of this project. However, the provision of reentry and transition services is an important service delivery component of many jail-based programs. 

(15) 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.


NOTE: Please contact some or all of the following members of the CCJB who are set to  meet at 4 pm Monday, December 8 , at the County Office to consider the Moseley report. This is not a public hearing as such but your respectful presence at the meeting, to be held at 4 pm in the Fire and Rescue room at County Administration on East Gay Street, will send an important message:

Community Criminal Justice Board Directory (CCJB)


The Honorable T.J. Wilson, Judge
Rockingham County Circuit Court
Judge of the Circuit Court
80 Court Square
Courthouse
Harrisonburg, VA 22802 Phone: (540) 564-3111
Fax: (540) 564-3127 


The Honorable Bruce D. Albertson, Judge
Rockingham County Circuit Court
Judge of the Circuit Court
80 Court Square
Courthouse
Harrisonburg, VA 22802 Phone: (540) 564-3111
Fax: (540) 564-3127 


The Honorable Richard A. Claybrook, Judge Rockingham County General District Court
Judge of the General District Court
53 Court Square
Room 132
Harrisonburg, VA 22801
Phone: (540) 564-3130
Civil # 540-564-3135 or 540-564-3138 


Fax: (540) 564-3096
Clerk
Ms Teresa Lynn Brown
email:
tbrown@courts.state.va.us 

The Honorable H. David O'Donnell, Judge
Rockingham County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court
Judge of the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court
53 Court Square, 2nd Floor; Room 214
Harrisonburg, Virginia 22801 Phone: (540) 564-3370

Fax: (540) 563-3392 

*Pablo Cuevas, Chairman of CCJB
Rockingham County Board of Supervisors
Rockingham County Governing Body
20 E. Gay St. Harrisonburg, VA 22802 Phone: (540) 896-7889 

*Ted Byrd, Vice Chairman of CCJB
Mayor, City of Harrisonburg
City of Harrisonburg Governing Body
345 S. Main Street Harrisonburg, VA 22801 Byrd@harrisonburgva.gov 

Donald D. Driver, Jr., Director
Harrisonburg/Rockingham County Social Services
Department of Social Services
PO Box 809
Harrisonburg, VA 22803
P (540) 574-5100
F (540) 574-5127
E
don.driver@dss.virginia.gov 

Chaz W. Evans-Haywood Clerk of Circuit Court Rockingham County Circuit Court
Rockingham County Courthouse Harrisonburg, VA 22801 clerkchaz@rockinghamcountyva.gov Phone: 540-564-3111
Fax: 540-564-3127 

Bryan Hutcheson, Sheriff
Rockingham County Sheriff's Department
Sheriff of Rockingham County/Regional Jail Administrator
25 S. Liberty St.
Harrisonburg, VA 22801
P (540) 564-3838
F (540) 564-3865
E
bhutcheson@rockinghamcountyva.gov 

Dr. Carol Fenn, Superintendent
Rockingham County Public Schools
Local Educator
Rockingham County Public Schools 100 Mt. Clinton Pike
Harrisonburg, VA 22802
P (540) 564-3230

F (540) 564-3241
E
cfenn@rockingham.k12.va.us W rockingham.k12.va.us 

Dr. Scott R. Kizner, Superintendent Harrisonburg City Schools
Local Educator
Harrisonburg City Schools One Court Square Harrisonburg, VA 22801 P (540) 434-9916
F (540) 434-5196 

Marsha L. Garst Attorney for the Commonwealth Commonwealth's Attorney
53 Court Square
Harrisonburg, VA 22801
P (540) 564-3350
F (540) 433-9161
E mgarst@rockinghamcountyva.gov 


Chief Stephen Monticelli Chief of Police, Harrisonburg Police Department
Harrisonburg Chief of Police
101 North Main Street Harrisonburg, Virginia 22802 Non-Emergency 540-434-4436 

*Kurt Hodgen, City Manager Harrisonburg City City Manager's Office, Room 201 City of Harrisonburg Manager/Executive 345 South Main St 
Harrisonburg, VA 22801
Kurt.Hodgen@harrisonburgva.gov 

Anne Lewis - Assistant City Manager -
Anne.Lewis@harrisonburgva.gov 

Louis K. Nagy, Esquire Public Defender/Criminal Defense 590 E. Market St. Harrisonburg, VA 22801
Phone: 540-315-8450 540-315-8450
Monica Martin, Chief Magistrate
26th Judicial District
Chief Magistrate of the 26th Judicial District
53 Court Square, Suite 180 Harrisonburg, VA 22801 540-564-3847 

*Joseph S. Paxton, Administrator Rockingham County
Rockingham County Administrator/Executive
20 E. Gay St.
Harrisonburg, VA 22802
P (540) 564-3011
F (540) 564-3017
E
jpaxton@rockinghamcountyva.gov 

Lee Shifflett James Madison University Non-Emergency Telephone - Chief of Police 540.568.6912
shifflla@jmu.edu 

Ann Marie Freeman, CCJB Director, Rockingham- 540-564-3144
Staff Harrisonburg Court Services Unit 53 Court Sq Ste 175
Harrisonburg, Virginia 22801-3700
amfreeman@rockinghamcountyva.gov 

Lacy Whitmore
Director of Community Service Board
1241 North Main St 540-434-1941
Fax:
540-434-1791 

You can get involved by signing the petition at http://statlive.org/building-justice/petition.html as well as check this "Action Packet" link for more information. And please feel free to post links on social media and otherwise share this information with your friends.