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Wednesday, May 11, 2016

HARD TIME VIRGINIA, Volume 1, Number 3


DOC KEEPS CUTTING COSTS
Virginia Law § 53.1-32.1(B) states that “each inmate incarcerated in Virginia shall be provided 40 hours of programs or work each week, or a combination of the two”, but apparently the General Assembly is not providing the VDOC the necessary funding. At Buckingham Correctional Center, for example, inmates were recently required to sign a paper accepting their hours being reduced to 15-20 a week, which creates a significant hardship for many of them.
    When the General Assembly passed the above legislation, inmates were supplied with up to ten first class stamps, one free weekly letter, one free bar of soap weekly, and were charged no medical, dental or optical co-pays. Meanwhile, Keefe Commissary regularly raises its prices for soap (no longer provided), snacks, stationary and other items, and the DOC has cut its food budget by about 1%, resulting in their spending over $1 million less for meals in the past budget year.

DESTRUCTION OF DOC RECORDS
Numerous inmates have found that official state documents are missing from their files, resulting in incorrect information about offenders' program completion certificates, etc.
     In 2009 each institution was held responsible for entering or scanning hardcopy data into the new "VACORIS" (Virginia Corrections Information System) Database System, after which the original hardcopy documents were to be shredded. If inadequate or incorrect information was entered, the offender now has no way of knowing or proving otherwise.
     What is not known is whether or not the Virginia Parole Board destroyed all of their prisoner letters of support and information that could help them be granted parole. 
     This is a serious problem. Especially for the offender's that do not have proof that they ever completed their education, program or vocational courses. Can VDOC replace these from their archives? They should.

RADIO IQ (WVTF) AIRS A FIVE-PART SERIES ON PAROLE
Here’s an excerpt from http://wvtf.org/post/life-without-parole-five-part-series#stream/0that begins with a statement by Kevin Reitz:
     “The original model of the parole board is that this would be a group of experts who really knew something about human behavior and changing human behavior.”
     Reitz is a professor of law at the University of Minnesota and a national expert on parole.  He thinks board members – who make up to $125,000 a year -- should have very specific credentials, and once appointed, should be empowered to do their jobs without fear.  Instead, they can be fired by the governor for any reason.
     “There is a feeling that if I let this person out today and, God forbid, he or she goes on to do something terrible, then that’s on me.  On the other hand, if I make the cautious decision and keep the person in, then there’s no risk to me.  They have a reasonably nice job, but if they make a mistake and let the wrong person out, that job could be gone tomorrow.”
     The board uses a system for scoring people who are up for parole, and Reitz says one such tool has proven very effective here in Virginia.
     “The sentencing commission has a risk assessment instrument that it gives to judges, and it has distilled the important risk factors for non-violent crimes down to a list of about seven or eight.  It’s a one-page form, and primarily it’s some information about the current offense, a lot of information about prior criminal history, age and gender.  It’s not a long list of factors that can at least sort people into rough categories.”
     Those in the low risk category are diverted from prison to treatment programs or community service, and over a ten year period Reitz says not one has gotten into serious trouble again.  
- by Virginia Public Radio  reporter Sandy Hausman

POSITIVE IMPRESSION OF PAROLE BOARD MEMBERS BY ONE INMATE 
“We just had a seminar last week with the two heads of the parole board as guest speakers, Ms. Karen Brown and Mr. Howell. I did have an opportunity to chat a little with them both. Ms. Brown says to me that she recognized my name from somewhere. I told her that you had written to her and mentioned my name... Guys were walking up to her and giving her their names and she recognized their names. They really surprised us all with how nice and empathetic they were. She really like the concept of offenders having positions as elders who help prepare returning citizens to reenter society. She thinks that re-entry programs are the best thing going now.”   -an inmate at St. Brides
     According to the Virginia Parole Board website, however, only 14 men and 2 women were granted parole in March, and an overwhelming majority were still turned down due to factors like “the serious nature of their offenses”, something no inmate can do anything about. And only two were released under the Geriatric Release provision among the many who are eligible.

DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS PER CAPITA COSTS FOR FISCAL YEAR ENDING JUNE 30, 2015
Institution/ Adult Daily Population/ Average Cost per Inmate  

Powhatan Correctional Center.................................279.....$96,972
Virginia Correctional Center for Women................575.....$35,005
Bland Correctional Center........................................642.....$35,175
Powhatan Reception & Classification Center.....      471.....$21,799
Sussex I State Prison.............................................1,128.....$30,810
Sussex II State Prison............................................1,259.....$25,461
Wallen Ridge State Prison.....................................1,052.....$29,280
St. Brides Correctional Center...............................1,190.....$19,660
**Red Onion State Prison..................................... ...811.....$37,970
Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women........    .1,246.....$27,418
Nottoway Correctional Center............................... 1,255.....$23,941
**Marion Correctional Center..................................258.....$64,759
Buckingham Correctional Center......................... 1,121.....$25,358
**Deep Meadow Correctional Center...................... 649.....$45,468
Deerfield Correctional Center.................................1,069.....$37,811
Augusta Correctional Center..................................1,249.....$22,280
Keen Mountain Correctional Center..........................826.....$26,514
Greensville Correctional Center.............................2,976.....$27,840
Dillwyn Correctional Center......................................879.....$26,852
Indian Creek Correctional Center..............................992.....$22,111
Haynesville Correctional Center............................... 910.....$25,490
Coffeewood Correctional Center...............................958.....$25,436
Lunenburg Correctional Center..................................922.....$25,681
Pocahontas State Correctional Center............    . ..1,028.....$20,646
Green Rock Correctional Center............................1,019.....$21,807
River North Correctional Center...............................939.....$23,550
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Total Institution average………………   ………25,701.....$28,246
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