|Jennifer Smith died unattended in a segregated cell at the Middle River Jail in October, 2013|
What do we do with this moment when Channel 29 has surfaced reason for concern about the safety and well being of our friends, family members and neighbors incarcerated at the Middle River Regional Jail?
First, we need to be aware that the Harrisonburg and Rockingham communities contribute their population and their funds to incarcerating our citizens at MRRJ.
Second, we need to know that we have six governing representatives on the oversight board of MRRJ. As our representatives they are responsible for the welfare of our friends and family members incarcerated there.
Finally, as community members, we need to recognize that we are the second major force in a democratic society that has the power to protect our fellow citizens from becoming abused by those in power. We can exercise that power by becoming an informed and engaged citizenry.
On February 1, concerned members of the community are offering members of the public an opportunity to become informed and engaged in responding to the outcome of the investigation by Channel 29. Citizens can attend a Channel 29 public screening of the investigation by reporter Tara Todd and participate in a community discussion.
A focus is on inviting the community to join in encouraging and supporting our representatives on the governing board of MRRJ in addressing the problems and seeking solutions to issues exposed by the Channel 29 report.
The chair of the Board of Authority, Mike Hamp, of Waynesboro, told reporter Tara Todd that he would welcome information on problems at the jail and solutions that might be implemented.
This is an important moment in the life of our community. Family members of those incarcerated at MRRJ are especially welcome. Those hosting the event are also extending a special invitation to our 6 representatives on the MRRJ governing board as well as officials at MRRJ. There is a commitment to working together with MRRJ leadership and oversight board members to create a working environment, programs and philosophy that respects both guards and those incarcerated there.
Please accept the invitation to become part of the solution. Attend one of the two meetings to be held Monday, February 1 (noon to 1:30) and (6:30 – 8:00pm) at the County Building, 20 East Gay Street, Harrisonburg. Look for the Fire and Rescue Room for each meeting.
Here's a link to more information on the TV-29 series: