Middle River houses 150 offenders from Harrisonburg and Rockingham County and one of the inmates transferred there had sent me a copy of the letter several weeks prior. After giving MRRJ an advance copy I posted it on my blog with the understanding that I would also post any official MRRJ response.
I print the following responses to the article in the News-Leader without names, although all signed their online posts.
[It should be noted that the treatment of inmates at Middle River Jail may not be significantly different than at many other facilities. Not every inmate may have the kinds of negative experiences as described below, and most members of the MRRJ staff are undoubtedly dedicated and good people.]
Here is a sample of the posts, slightly edited for brevity and clarity:
"I was housed at MRRJ once. I am a diabetic. First they lost my insulin altogether so I went over 15 hours without medication. I ended up being sent to the hospital. Before the trip to the hospital i was denied a bond. But after being hospitalized the jail found the seriousness of my growing illness they made a bond appear out of thin air. Once they woke me up to sign the paperwork for my bond they removed all Middle River property from me and left me naked in a hospital bed. Didn't even bother to tell any family to notify them of my condition."
"My friend DIED in that jail! She was supposed to be sent to Augusta Medical for psych help and died due to lack of appropriate medical treatment!"
"It's sad that they can't get the meds they need. Rockingham County jail is just as bad. It's so sad."
"It took them a half hour for them to get a wheel chair for a girl that was having a panic attack... And then another girl had a stroke and took them 20 minutes. M.R.R.J is the worst jail possible and you only get fed twice a day on weekends. We should at least get snack bags because some of us don't get money for canteen and we are hungry sometimes."
"I was just incarcerated and myself was one of the ones who had signed that letter. And the living conditions at M.R.R.J are insane. I mean we get two rolls of toilet paper and certain amount of pads and we were locked down for a week and weren't allowed to take showers. The food is also horrible and you get fed the same thing sometimes twice a day. I mean they need to be looked at and matters at the jail need to change because that jail is very inhumane. I thought Rockingham County jail was bad. But M.R.R.J is ten times worse."
"I was there from June 11-July 6 and I asked them several times could I see a nurse to get checked for a UTI bccause of the KoolAid there. And just to get pads you have to put in a request form. Something needs to be done."
"I was doing a weekend and I lay in a cold holding cell floor the whole weekend with pneumonia. I coughed so much in that cell I cracked my ribs. I asked to see medical 10 times and never got to. This was ten years ago."
"I would like to state that I can positively verify these complaints being made by these women!!! I recently spent several days at MRRJ, & the girls were not only trying to get sanitary products when they were having their periods, but then were also being denied toilet paper when they asked for it, and THEY NEEDED THAT TO SOAK UP THE BLOOD OF THEIR MENSTRUAL CYCLE BECAUSE THEY WERE BEING DENIED THE BASIC PRODUCTS REQUIRED FOR SUCH THINGS?!! I wish McCauley could hear how RIDICULOUS THAT STATEMENT about the reality of things being different than what was written in the letter sounds?!!! That makes me so ANGRY BECAUSE , once again, its just being shrugged off like it doesn't matter?!!! And the statement about the pads being used for other things like padding pillows is also pretty absurd?!!! I guess if someone in a wheelchair gets arrested, they tell em to stand up and walk, coz you know? Theyre probably just pretending to be paralyzed or something right?!!! Give me a BREAK?!!! I want to state for the record that the complaints made by those girls are 100% TRUE & ACCURATE AS TO THE REALITY OF HOW CONDITIONS ARE AT MRRJ?!!! Its COMPLETELY UNACCEPTABLE?!!"
"I was housed at MRRJ, and yes it sounds about right. Women inmates receive very little compared to the male inmates. And I have seen situations, and they ignore you, you never get anywhere.... The staff treats inmates like they are worse than dirt. Most staff are really unprofessional and rude. I'm a person who believe in punishment such as incarceration if deserved but that jail is the worse I ever heard."
Here is a link to the text of the letter by the 20 female inmates as posted on my blog, along with several additional comments by former inmates: http://harvyoder.blogspot.com/2015/07/women-at-mrrj-voice-some-grievances.html