Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Local Jail Concerns Well Received By The Community Criminal Justice Board

Recommendations for jail reforms presented by members of the Valley Justice Coalition, a a group of concerned local residents, were given a sympathetic hearing at yesterday's meeting of the CCJB. 

In addition, there were the following encouraging developments:

1. The new chair, William Kyger, who represents the 4th District on the Board of Supervisors, announced there will be regular quarterly meetings of the Community Criminal Justice Board starting in January, 2017. Its last session had been in September of last year.

2. A study committee headed by retiring Judge John Paul, which gave its first report to the CCJB yesterday, is to take recommendations made by his own group, by the Richmond-based Moseley Architects firm (as received two years ago), and by the Valley Criminal Justice Coalition and others present yesterday, and to come up with a plan in which working sub-groups made up of members of the CCJB and local residents will study and work on improving our criminal justice system.

3. In the open comment time Harrisonburg Mayor Chris Jones and others urged the CCJB to move ahead with all deliberate speed to implement proposals to reduce incarceration and implement improvements in jail health care and other jail-related issues.

4. Two local women shared moving personal accounts of mistreatment and lack of proper medical care experienced by loved ones in our local jails.

The following recommendations were presented by the Valley Justice Coalition:

A. Improve Conditions of Confinement
  • No one should be confined to the holding area for more than 12 hours without being provided    with a blanket and mattress while waiting to be placed in a regular cell.
  • No one should be confined to a segregation cell or placed on lockdown for long periods of time without opportunities for regular physical exercise and mental stimulation.
  • Non-violent offenders should be able to come the visitation area to talk with family members without being in handcuffs  and prison garb.
  • All inmates should be able to wear ordinary civilian clothes to court appearances.
  • Families of inmates should not have to bear the burden of paying an arbitrary $1 per day in jail “rent” ($3 for MRRJ) before their family members can purchase commissary items.
  • Commissary items and phone service should be provided at reasonable cost and not for profit.
  • Quality health and dental care should be provided for all inmates regardless of their ability to pay, and those on prescribed medications should be able to continue them without interruption.
  • Suicidally depressed inmates should not be placed in a restraint chair or confined to the isolated padded cell due to the lack of sufficient mental health personnel.
  • Well vetted local mental health professionals should be solicited—on a voluntary basis if necessary—to provide crisis intervention if a CSB worker is not available.
B. Review and Update Procedures for Inmate Grievances

Both staff and inmates benefit from cogent, documented policies which articulate the methods to question and receive responses from administrators. In that regard, the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) of 1996, a solid, non-discriminatory grievance procedure is viewed as an element of positive correctional management which assists in creating safe, institutional environments.

Additionally, as the intent of PLRA was to significantly impact on the number of frivolous lawsuits clogging federal court dockets, the language of the statute dictates that inmates must “exhaust all administrative remedies” prior to filing lawsuits.

All correctional facilities should appoint an “Inmate Ombudsman” who maintains accountability and equality in grievance procedures. He or she constantly should review the processes to insure that timeliness, fairness, and rational responses are inherent in the processes. Further, as relevant, modifications and improvements should be initiated to maintain positive and fluid communication between personnel and the justice-involved.

At intake, a resident handbook should be distribute which contains a clear, concise grievance mechanism which is delineated in two distinct sections: policy and procedures. 

Policy must define allowable categories for submitting complaints. Procedures must be instructional as to the steps of the process, forms, identities of the arbiters, anticipated timeframe, and appeal process. The latter supports the credibility, while offering each individual the opportunity to further receive information and, perhaps, reconsideration.

Fair and objective inmate grievance procedures are critical in every correctional facility to insure that all voices are heard. Integrity in the process provides all incarcerated persons, without reprisal or retaliation, access to information, ability to question management, and express concerns regarding the conditions of confinement. Further, an element of participation in their life situation is empowering and humane to those who have no control over their daily existence.

C. Adopt Best Practices That Help Reduce Recidivism

      • Have a Community Oversight and Accountability Board appointed for each local jail.
  • Provide more pre-and post-release vocational training and educational programs to help     inmates become gainfully employed.
  • Eliminate laws and policies that serve as obstacles to the successful reintegration of former inmates into the communities (such as limitations on getting a driver's licenses or trade licenses, the burden of fines with accumulated interest having been incurred while in prison, prohibitions against receiving social services such as food stamps, low income housing, etc

D. Begin Work on Jail Accreditation 

Accreditation improves public confidence in correctional facilities which meet accepted national standards designed to safeguard the life and health of personnel and offenders. It serves as a means to implement these standards in all aspects of offender management, conditions of confinement and delivery of health services. It reduces exposure to costly liability and recognizes an institution’s commitment to meeting quality goals and employing evidence-based practices.  

The accreditation process, typically completed within two years and costing less than $20,000, provides correctional institutions tools to fortify their policies and procedures consistent with nationally recognized standards and practices. Following a professionally assisted self-study, surveyors from the accrediting organizations conduct an extensive on-site review and bring years of experience and familiarity with national standards and best practices.  

The primary accrediting organizations, which establish the industry benchmarks, are the American Correctional Association (ACA) and the National Commission on Correctional Health Care (NCCHC).  A number of local and regional jails across the Commonwealth are accredited by one or both organizations.

Benefits of accreditation include:         
~ Improvement of staff morale and promotion of professional excellence.                                                                   
~ Reduction in litigation relative to inmate health care and conditions of confinement.                                                                                                                                                                 
~ Establishment of good-faith efforts to improve management and operational policies.                                        
~ Justification for budget requests.                                                                                                                                      
~ Application of accepted national standards through facility self-governance.                                                                                                                                        
~ Development of institutional pride from completing a rigorous review process.

Recognizing that the accreditation process is less than perfect and may well not change the philosophies of individual correctional administrators, it nevertheless provides accountability, reduces liability and can be an effective catalyst for cultural shifts.

Therefore, The Valley Justice Coalition respectfully requests that the Community Criminal Justice Board recommend to the Harrisonburg City Council and the Rockingham County Board of Supervisors that both Rockingham-Harrisonburg Regional Jail and Middle River Regional Jail begin immediately to pursue national accreditation and that sufficient funds be allocated to support that process.

- prepared for the Harrisonburg/Rockingham Community Criminal Justice Board 8/29/16


“The Valley Justice Coalition is made up of residents of Rockingham County, the City of Harrisonburg and adjacent areas who are concerned about justice reforms in our community and state. It actively promotes restorative justice and other alternatives to incarceration, advocates for just and humane treatment of offenders, collaborates with local officials in promoting best practices that result in reduced rates of recidivism, and advocates for a system of justice that can be a model for communities everywhere."

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Cease Fire

God is our refuge and strength
an ever present help in times of trouble…
God brings an end to war everywhere. 

God breaks bows into pieces, 
   snaps spears in two; 
   burns chariots in fire.

God cries, "Halt! Drop your weapons!
Acknowledge me as sovereign over all nations!”
- from Psalm 46 

We're accustomed to reading the words "Be still and know that I am God" in the above text as a call to quiet reflection. But it's clear from the context that it's really a command to pay attention to our commander-in-chief, to listen up and stop the bloody wars we're engaging in. 

The Hebrew word still (“rapa") means to "let down" or "cease", to stop whatever we're doing. In this case, to "Halt! Drop your weapons!"

In today's troubled world, nothing could be more urgent than having all nations lay down their arms rather than investing in ever more deadly ways of producing death and destruction.

Escalating conflicts set off by shock and awe invasions and iron-fisted dictatorships are exacting a terrible toll all over the Middle East, and it is the innocent who suffer most. In Syria alone there are 6.5 million internally displaced refugees, and over 4 million have fled to other countries. 

The world simply can't afford war anymore. We must declare it over, no matter what that costs us.

Because continuing on our present course, fighting evil with evil, will cost us even more, and result in unimaginable disaster.

God says, "Be still! Stop!”  

The whole world needs to listen, lest we all perish.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Latest Press Release On Restored Civil Rights

Commonwealth of Virginia
Office of Governor Terry McAuliffe

August 22, 2016

Office of the Governor
Contact: Brian Coy

Governor McAuliffe Announces Process for Case-by-Case Restoration of Former-Felons’ Civil Rights

~ Governor restores rights of nearly 13,000 Virginians who had previously registered to vote ~

RICHMOND – Governor Terry McAuliffe today announced that he and his team have begun restoring the civil rights of former Virginia felons in compliance with an order by the Virginia Supreme Court.

Speaking at a press conference at the Virginia Civil Rights Memorial in Richmond, the Governor announced that he has already restored the rights of nearly 13,000 Virginians who had previously registered to vote before the court’s ruling stripped them of their rights.

The Governor also announced the detailed process he will use to evaluate the cases of individuals who may qualify to have their rights restored based on the objective criteria he has established.

“Restoring the rights of Virginians who have served their time and live, work and pay taxes in our communities is one of the pressing civil rights issues of our day,” said Governor McAuliffe. “I have met these men and women and know how sincerely they want to contribute to our society as full citizens again.

“The process I have announced today fully complies with the Virginia Supreme Court’s order and the precedent of governors before me. It also reflects the clear authority the Governor possesses to use his own discretion to restore rights of people who have served their time.

“The history of civil rights in Virginia has at times been a difficult one. Opponents have often succeeded in delaying or undermining efforts to move our Commonwealth forward – but in the end progress has always prevailed. This time will be no different.

“It is my hope that the approach we announced today marks the end of the partisan battles that have been waged over this issue so that every Virginian leader can play a role in welcoming these individuals back to society and building a Commonwealth of greater justice, equality and opportunity for every family.”

Today the administration launched a new web portal ( for Virginians to access more information about the process and how it impacts them. 

The McAuliffe administration also shared the following memo with Commonwealth’s Attorneys, members of the Virginia General Assembly and local elections officials across the Commonwealth. That memo is below:

Governor McAuliffe’s Restoration of Rights Policy
August 22, 2016

Restoring the rights of individuals who have served their time and reentered society is the right thing to do. Virginia’s felon disenfranchisement policy is rooted in a tragic history of voter suppression and marginalization of minorities, and it needs to be overturned. While Virginians continue to wait for the General Assembly to pass a constitutional amendment to permanently repeal this policy, the Governor is committed to doing everything in his power to restore the rights of Virginians who have completed their sentences. 

The Constitution of Virginia grants the Governor the sole authority to restore the rights of individuals who have been convicted of a felony.  While it is our position that the Governor’s April 22nd action was clearly constitutional by any reasonable standard, he will proceed with individual restorations in accordance with the Virginia Supreme Court’s order and the precedent of governors before him.
Today, the Governor is announcing next steps to proceed with individually restoring the rights of persons who have served their time and completed supervised release.  This process is fair and transparent and fully complies with the restrictions outlined in the July 22nd Supreme Court decision. These actions stem from Governor McAuliffe’s belief in the power of second chances and his determination that our Commonwealth will no longer treat these individuals like second class citizens.

It is the Governor’s hope that this will be the last phase of this battle over the civil rights of these individuals, and that opponents of these actions will recognize his clear authority as well as the morality behind it. As we have seen, there are some in our society who believe people who commit felonies should lose their rights forever, despite having served the sentence that a judge and jury imposed for their crime. And there are others who believe a subjective evaluation of the severity of a person’s crime should determine whether that individual is worthy to have his or her rights restored. As his actions demonstrate, Governor McAuliffe has faith in our criminal justice system and its ability to impose different sentences on different individuals in relation to the particular nature and circumstances of their offenses. After offenders serve those sentences, he believes they should have equal access under the law to have their rights restored. If a person is judged to be safe to live in the community, he or she should have a full voice in its governance.

Any action of this size and historic nature is difficult to perform without some administrative error. As the information below demonstrates, identifying these individuals (some of whom have been disenfranchised for decades) and restoring their rights is a significant undertaking of numerous state agencies that maintain information in different ways. The process we designed includes a multi-step review to ensure that the individuals being considered for restoration fully meet the Governor’s criteria. However, it is possible that there will be discrepancies from time to time, and we will work to fix them as soon as they are identified. The difficulty of this administrative undertaking is not an excuse, however, for leaving hundreds of thousands of people disenfranchised.

The Governor’s process moving forward is outlined below.

STEP 1: Re-restoring the rights of individuals who had their voter registration canceled as a result of the Virginia Supreme Court’s decision: 

·         Following the July 22nd Supreme Court decision, the Department of Elections and Secretary of the Commonwealth (SOC) quickly complied with the Court’s order for the Secretary of the Commonwealth to delete from the records any individuals who had their rights restored under these orders, and for the Department of Elections to cancel the voter registration of any individual whose rights were restored under these orders.  All individuals who registered to vote pursuant to Governor McAuliffe’s April 22May 31 and June 24 orders were mailed a cancellation notice from the Department of Elections.

·         Since then, the SOC led a thorough review of the individuals who had their voter registration canceled to determine whether each individual meets the Governor’s standards for restoration of rights and provided a recommendation to the Governor.

·         On August 15, Governor McAuliffe approved the restoration of rights of nearly 13,000 people.  Certain individual cases remain under review.

·         Individual restoration orders were printed with the Governor’s signature under the Seal of the Commonwealth and mailed on Friday, August 19, to those newly restored individuals.

·         Individuals whose rights were restored on or after August 15 have been updated in the SOC’s database and communicated to the Department of Elections to remove those individuals from the prohibited voter list. 
·         SOC will release the names of newly restored individuals monthly. The list will be made available by request. The full list will also be included in Senate Document 2 (SD2) as it has been historically.

STEP 2: Restoring the rights of other qualified individuals.

·         SOC is giving priority consideration to individuals who request restoration of their civil rights.  Those wishing to expedite restoration of their own rights may contact the SOC through the

·         In addition, the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s office has identified individuals who may meet the Governor’s standards for restoration: individuals who have been convicted of a felony and are no longer incarcerated or under active supervision by the Department of Corrections (DOC) or other state agency.

·         Prioritizing by date since release from supervision and starting with those who have been released from supervision the longest, SOC will conduct a thorough review of each of these individuals, checking their records with Virginia State Police, DOC, State Compensation Board, Department of Juvenile Justice, Department of Criminal Justice Service, and Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services to ensure the individual meets the Governor’s standards for restoration of rights.

·         In addition to confirming completion of incarceration and supervised release, the SOC considers factors such as active warrants, pre-trial hold, and other concerns that may be flagged by law enforcement.  Individuals in these circumstances or any with concerns about the accuracy of information analyzed from law enforcement will be held from our streamlined consideration process for further review.

·         Upon completion of its review, SOC will make recommendations to the Governor to restore the rights of individuals who have been determined to meet his standards.
·         The Governor will review SOC’s analysis of each individual’s record and will make the final decision on proposed candidates for restoration of rights.

·         Upon the Governor’s approval, SOC will issue and mail personalized restoration orders.

·         SOC will release the names of newly restored individuals monthly. The list will be made available by request. The full list will also be included in Senate Document 2 (SD2) as it has been historically.

If you know of individuals who wish to have their rights restored, please have them submit a request on the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s website Individuals without internet access can call the SOC at 804-692-0104 or mail-in a contact form.


To view the published release, please visit:

Elliot Meyer
Press Assistant
Office of Governor Terence R. McAuliffe
Direct: (804) 786-4401
General: (804) 786-2211

Note: Here's a link to send an email message to the Governor to thank him and to encourage him to have the Parole Board grant discretionary and geriatric release to deserving inmates.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

How Much Cash, Real Estate And Paid Staff Does It Take To Produce A Follower of Jesus?

"No one can truly know Christ unless they follow him daily in life." 
- early Anabaptist Hans Denck

Most of us Mennonites operate from the conviction that we should do everything possible to pass on the faith to our children, no matter what the cost.

But have we focused too much on financially costly programs and institutions to accomplish this--and too little on things that are more costly in terms of personal sacrifice?

Consider the example of Jesus. His work of nurturing young disciples required almost zero financing, but cost him everything in terms of time, energy and his very life.

Today we tend to outsource many of those efforts to church professionals and parachurch institutions.

EXAMPLE A: Since the mid 20th century we have invested in more and more expensive real estate for our weekly worship services, Sunday school and other programs to nurture people in the faith, all of which tend to utilize a lot of building space (and are used for a very limited periods of time). More recently, it's become more common for congregations to hire paid Christian education persons and part time or full time youth and young adult pastors, all of whom use professionally produced Sunday School, Bible School and other study curricula.

Task A: Figure out how much of your church's budget goes for the above discipling efforts, including cost of building maintenance, curriculum and the amount going for staff salaries and support. Then figure what the approximate monetary cost is per youth and/or young adult benefiting from these programs.

EXAMPLE B: Mennonites appear to have more professionally run church-wide institutions dedicated to educating our young than do most denominations of our size. Among these are state-of-the-art church camps, Christian elementary and high schools, and Christian colleges and seminaries.  The unusual numbers of these great programs are partly due to the merger that created MCUSA, and the tendency of institutions, for better or for worse, to make every effort to preserve and perpetuate themselves.

Task B: Check your church's budget to determine your financial investment in para church organizations and institutions focused on nurturing and discipling our young. Compare that to the rate of giving designated for the church's mission beyond itself, and how that compares to past church budgets.

Finally, add up the total numbers and come up with an estimated average cost of raising one Mennonite follower of Jesus from childhood to adulthood in your congregation, including their attendance at Mennonite or other Christian educational institutions.

Next, compare that to the financial cost of discipling one young believer in the first century church, or one Anabaptist believer in the sixteenth century, or one Mennonite World Conference member in the Global South, or a young believer in an Old Order Amish or Mennonite community. *

 I'm not saying that spending some or all of this money is necessarily a bad thing, only that we consider how to best use our resources in ways that best demonstrate Jesus' approach to disciple making. The work of making disciples is always costly, and sometimes may indeed involve some substantial financial investment.

But are we overlooking other even more demanding and costly ways of raising Jesus-followers? For example, what impact would it have on our young if they observed us being engaged in some of the following:

- Congregational members demonstrating a radical commitment to reducing personal possessions and making huge investments in worldwide relief and service efforts.

- Paid staff members voluntarily living on lower salaries, and encouraging others to follow their example.

- The church, both locally and as a denomination, placing a moratorium on investing in more real estate or paid positions until the rest of a world in need catches up with our standard of living.

- Having a growing number of members embrace a lifestyle akin to those of people like St. Francis of Assissi or a Mother Teresa--or the lifestyle of Jesus and his apostles, who exhorted his disciples to leave all behind and follow in his steps.

Perhaps there is no more effective way of enlisting and training faithful Jesus followers than by our actually following in his steps, costly as that may be.

Which may make what we are doing now seem really cheap in comparison.

And sadly, too many of our teens and young adults don't seem to be especially impressed by what we're doing now.

Footnote: The Amish, without any church buildings or paid staff, and with no overt efforts at evangelizing, are growing at a very rapid rate, and according to a recent Mennonite World Review article, will soon have four times as many members as MCUSA. Part of that is due to having larger families, but even more important is their 85% retention rate, well above our own.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Local Citizens: Support Reform At The Next Meeting Of The Community Criminal Justice Board

Mr. William Kyger, District 4 member of the Rockingham Board of Supervisors, will be serving as the new chair of the CCJB beginning with its next meeting at 4 pm Monday, August 29, at the Fire and Rescue Room in the southwest corner of the County Administration Building

Your respectful presence will show support for the CCJB as it considers such agenda items as the following (this one from from the local Reentry Council): 

The Harrisonburg/Rockingham/Page Reentry Council wishes to collaborate with the CCJB in further evaluating and implementing more of the Moseley Group's recommendations they adopted in December, 2104, to help reduce incarceration:

1. Adult Drug Court 

“…the scientific evidence is overwhelming that adult drug courts reduce crime, reduce substance abuse, improve family relationships, and increase earning potential. …Drug Courts in Virginia saved taxpayers $19,234 per person as compared to traditional case processing, and reduced recidivism rates for the persons completing a program.”

2. Day Reporting Centers

“…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.”  

3. Implement New Programs

“…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.” 

4. Reduce Number of Inmates In Three Categories 
  1. un-sentenced detainees awaiting trial (approximately 40% of the inmate population);
  2. probation violators (by a number of measures a disproportionally large offender group),
  3. offenders with substantial substance/mental health issues that are associated with repeated criminal behavior and contribute to the jail’s “revolving door.” 
5. Increase System Coordination, Goal Setting, Oversight and Planning

“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.”

6. Have CCJB Form Working Sub-committees

“…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.” 

7. 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.”

8. Investigate Pretrial Confinement Policies, Procedures and Administrative Practices

“… 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.”

9. Increase Pretrial and Probation Staff Levels

“…consider funding new positions rather than waiting for the State funding process…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…”

10. Expand Home Electronic and GPS Monitoring For Pre- and Post-trial Supervision

“…provides a viable and effective mechanism for controlling jail crowding.” 

11. Implement and Strengthen New Jail-based Programs

“...including: work release, education release, public work force, electronic home monitoring, weekend sentencing (non-consecutive sentencing).”

12. Expand and strengthen reentry services for incarcerated offenders

“…the provision of reentry and transition services is an important service delivery component of many jail-based programs.”

13. 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.”

Saturday, August 20, 2016

"Sharing False Witness"--How Facebook Has Become Farcebook

One of 6 reputable fact checking sites
"What's that smell in this room? Didn't you notice it, Brick? Didn't you notice a powerful and obnoxious odor of mendacity in this room?"
- Tennessee Williams play, "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof"

Facebook and other forms of social media have become virtual tabloids of re-shared half-truths, rumors and outright falsehoods, especially in this political season.


Obama Signs Executive Order Banning The Pledge Of Allegiance In Schools Nationwide
This site uses what looks like the abc news logo, also the abcnews URL, except for an added ".co" (and the "White House Hotline" number listed is for the Westboro Baptist Church of Orlando!) See

DNC Hires Actors to Fill Seats Vacated by Bernie Supporters

How Can We Counter This Kind of Misinformation?

1. Always be skeptical of social media posts. And thoroughly fact check before you share any of them.

2. Always mistrust sites that consistently represent only one side or one particular point of view, like Brietbart, the Drudge Report, the Daily Cos, and multiple other supposed "news sources". Any site names that contain the words liberal, conservative, Republican, Democrat, red, blue, etc., are sure to represent some form of propaganda espousing a political party or cause.

3. Read and follow more than one news source, recognizing that no news outlet, including those representing the so-called "Lame Stream Media", is totally free of bias. Yet conventional outlets run by professional journalists who check and double check their sources--and cite multiple and diverse sources--are far, far more trustworthy than are most internet sites.


"Finally, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things."
-Philippians 4:8 (NIV)

Recent interview with TV 3's Bob Corso on "Does The Truth Matter Anymore?"

Friday, August 19, 2016

Important Community Summit Set For 8/27

Please put this on your calendar and register here. Your participation in this non-partisan event, on this important subject, can help make a positive difference in our community.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Some Telltale Signs Of Faulty Reasoning

Dr. Michael C. Labossiere has put together a comprehensive list of logical fallacies, a fallacy defined as an error in reasoning in which the premises in an argument do not provide logical or reasonable support for the conclusion reached.

A common example is the "false generalization," in which people argue that because some people of a given group are known for certain behaviors, that this is true for all members of the group. This is similar to the fallacy of “guilt by association,” where someone is accused of believing and behaving like those with whom they have collaborated in some previous and maybe random way.

Another common fallacy is “two wrongs make a right,” making the case that because someone else or some other group is doing something reprehensible, that what I or we are doing is justifiable or is not so bad.

Then, of course, a favorite one is the "ad hominem" argument, where we attack the bearer of the message as a bad person, then insist that nothing that person says is worth hearing or believing.

Not only does the use of such logical fallacies abound in opinion pieces and on editorial pages, we use them in our personal relationships and in our endless arguments with our co-workers, friends and family members.

The truth is our friend. Let’s make sure we make every effort to speak the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, and always in a spirit of care and respect.

Here's a helpful link to Labossiere's complete list of 42 logical fallacies, complete with explanations and examples. You can feel free to refer to it to point out whenever I'm inadvertently guilty of employing some them myself.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Change In Thirteenth Amendment Urged By American Correctional Association

photo courtesy of  "Prison is the New Slavery"  website
The ACA is a nationwide association which sets accreditation standards for U.S. jails and prisons. Neither our local jail nor the MRRJ is yet accredited by the ACA, though the nearby Albemarle/Charlottesville Regional Jail is.

Here's the text of the resolution passed at the ACA national conference in Boston last week:

WHEREAS, Section 1 of the Thirteenth Amendment of the Constitution provides that “neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the united states;” and

WHEREAS, the American Correctional Association decries the historical applicability of slavery and involuntary servitude as acceptable punishments for those convicted of crimes; and

WHEREAS, in its “Code of Ethics”, the American Correctional Association expresses that it “expects of its members unfailing honesty and respect for the dignity and individuality of human beings;” and

WHEREAS, the “Declaration of Principles” of the American Correctional Association stipulates that we have “a special responsibility to protect from harm those who are involuntarily under (our) care and control” and that “contemporary standards for health care, offender classification, due process, fire and building safety, nutrition, personal well-being, and clothing and shelter must be observed;” and

WHEREAS, the American Correction Association believes that periods of incarceration should not be imposed as punishment for crime, but should be utilized to provide activities that enhance self-worth, community integration and economic status through work, education, vocational training, counseling, medical, mental health care and restorative justice programs; and now

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the American Correctional Association finds the ‘Exclusion Clause’ to Section 1 of the Thirteenth Amendment of the Constitution to be inconsistent with its basic founding principles and standards; and now

THEREFORE BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the American Correctional Association supports amendment of the Constitution to repeal the “Exclusion Clause.”

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Newspaper Popular Among Amish Will Run No More Trump Ads

photo courtesy of the Budget home page
The national edition of a weekly newspaper called the Budget, published in the little village of Sugarcreek, Ohio, recently ran a Trump ad aimed at potential Amish voters.

The Budget, a paper read faithfully by thousands of Amish and conservative Mennonites all over the nation, consists largely of newsy letters from hundreds of unpaid "scribes" in scattered communities across the US.

The political ad published in the July 13, 2016, edition begins with, "Did you know the 2016 presidential election will be on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016?" then offers a list of "what you need to know about him (Trump)". Among these are that he "never held public office" and that he "owns a family-run business". It also states that Trump doesn't use alcohol and that he will "appoint pro-life judges who protect religious liberty".

There is no mention, of course, that many of Trump's family-run businesses are luxury hotels, expansive golf courses and large gambling casinos, all anathema to the Amish. Nor does it state that Trump has frequently filed for bankruptcy, has often forced contractors to accept less than what was owed them and threatened them with law suits alleging unsatisfactory work, all business practices the Amish would never approve.

Associate publisher Milo Miller, not an Amish, told me in a phone conversation that the ad got responses from a lot his readers, many of them unfavorable, and that the paper decided not to publish future ads of this kind. He also said he's not sure many of his Amish readers would be persuaded by such ads anyway, especially since the Amish generally do not vote or take part in local or national politics.

Perhaps Miller is following the lead of former Budget associate editor A. A. Middaugh, who over a century ago wrote a piece in the February 5, 1913, edition, called "Some Reasons Why the Budget is Safe Literature for Christian Homes". In it he says, "Many ads are rejected because of conscientious scruples, involving quite a loss to the Budget Company." (1)

Sounds like a wise policy.

(1) from "The Budget of Sugarcreek, Ohio, 1890-1920", senior history thesis by Harvey Yoder published in the June 1966 issue of the Mennonite Quarterly Review.


Here's a link to an article in the Mennonite World Review about the Trump ad.

Friday, August 12, 2016

"What More Can I Do To Prove I'm A Good Candidate For Parole Release?"

Sic Semper Captivas?
This is a copy of one of many letters of its kind I've received from deeply discouraged parole eligible inmates, this one addressed to members of the Virginia Parole Board. Mr. Forbes represents the kind of ex-offender who could make the case that Virginia's Department of Corrections can actually "correct" those it incarcerates and not just forever punish them.
Dear Sir/Madam,

Please allow me to introduce myself. My name is Roger E. Forbes #1163934. I am a first time offender. I am serving a life sentence plus thirty-eight (38) years, for armed robbery, malicious wounding as well as an additional robbery offense. I was twenty-two (22) years of age when I committed these offenses, I am currently forty-nine (49) years of age now and this is my twenty-sixth (26th) year of confinement.

I am writing you to ask what more can I do to be taken as a serious candidate for parole release? I know that the Parole Board has been appointed by the Governor to deal with matters of parole, but each year I am denied parole release and told to continue my hard work but, unfortunately, my hard work has gone unacknowledged. So can you please tell me, if you can, what more can I do to prove that I am truly a changed human being and good candidate for parole release?

I have been going up for parole review since 2003. It has become quite apparent to me that my sincere, genuine pleas to the Parole Board for a second chance to begin a new life beyond the confines of the prison gates have unfortunately fallen on deaf ears..While I am not happy with the Parole Board's recent (January 19, 2016) decision to not grant me parole at this time. I respect their decision, and understand that public safety is the Parole Board's primary concern in determining who and when an individual is chosen for parole release.

I cannot honestly say that I thoroughly understand what kind of process that the Parole Board goes through in assessing and evaluating those of us that are deemed good candidates for parole release.. I honestly, wholeheartedly believe and know that I am an excellent candidate.

After being turned down for parole release for over a decade thus far. it truly leaves me with a strong feeling of uncertainty about the potential prospect of my future. The message that I am beginning to sense from the Parole Board is that all of my sincere, hard work and efforts committed towards being a better human being is simply in vain. Nevertheless, still I choose to work towards being a better human being.

It is apparent to me that the Parole Board has chosen to only see me through eyes of the past, a part of me that no longer exists. This is reflected in their rationale for not.granting me parole release thus far. While it is not an easy task learning to become a better human being in a negative and abnormal setting, I can honestly say that I have achieved that goal.

For the past fourteen (14) years I have worked very hard toward improving my personal growth and development. Which I have proven by my actions and not just in words. I have taken and completed several treatment programs over years past as well as present; Breaking Barriers, Anger Management, Problem solving skills, Thinking For A Change, as well as P.R.E.P.'s. Each of these programs has been instrumental in helping me to become the person that I am today. Programs in prison really do work, if the individual is receptive to them, and I have been.

Out of the twenty-six (26) years that I have been confined thus far, I can honestly say that I have successfully maintained employment for at least twenty-two (22) of those years. Where I have learned marketable job skills and gained work experience, which I am still continuing to do.

I am currently working for Virginia Correctional Enterprise, sheet metal/wood shop. I am employed as an edge-band operator. I operate a very sensitive and dangerous piece of machinery. It is the most expensive machine in the shop, at a cost of over $700,000. I have also been employed with Virginia Correctional Enterprise at Nottoway Correctional Center in 2006 in their wood shop and at Augusta Correctional Center in 2007 in their tailor shop.

You can see that I have been very busy and productive during the course of my incarceration thus far. I have also worked for Food Service at four (4) different institutions: Greensville Correctional Center in 1991, Red Onion State Prison in 2000-2001, Nottoway Correctional Center in 2005-2006, and Pocahontas Correctional Center in 2012-2013, where I managed to pick up valuable work skills.

I have even held down a supervisory position of employment (Building Assistant) at Green Rock Correctional Center from 2013-2015. Where I was responsible for thirty-two (32) inmate workers, ensuring that they completed their assigned duties as pod workers.

I have also successfully completed a number of vocational courses that I have earned certificates for: C.A.D.D. (Computer-Aided Drafting and Design, 2013-2014); Custodial Maintenance, 2000-2001; Basic Computer Concepts, 2014-2015. While I am not currently licensed, I am a skilled Barber as well. As you can see, I am equipped with employable job skills and training.

I love and adore and miss my family immensely, as they do me. My mother is now sixty-six (66) years of age, a devout Christian and law abiding citizen. I haven't seen her in thirty (30) years. She has been very supportive throughout my incarceration thus far. My sister is forty (40) years of age now. I haven't seen her in twenty-four (24) years, and she too, is a good Christian and law abiding citizen, and has been supportive as well. My brother is forty-five (45) years of age; I haven't seen him since 1978. He is currently incarcerated in Massachusetts. We are close and have been in contact throughout my incarceration thus far. I don't have any children, but I still have aspirations of.someday having a family of my own.

My family has suffered a great deal in my absence in their lives during the course of my incarceration, and I have felt terrible for putting them through this and not being able to support them in some capacity at times when they may have needed it.

With all due respect, I would like to believe that all of the Parole Board members, have the intelligible ability to recognize and believe that there is a good chance that after an individual has served over twenty-five (25) years of prison time, that he or she has had to have made positive adjustments in their overall behavior.

What I would like for you as well as the Parole Board Members to know and understand is that, the individual that I once was no longer exists and hasn't for a long time now. The person that committed those offenses twenty-six (26) years ago deserved the punishment that he received; the man that they're continuing to punish today, with their decision each year to not grant parole release is truly a better human being. This human being is undoubtedly on the right track and plans to stay there. All of the tools (Coping Skills, Job Skills, and Problem Solving Skills) that I absolutely lacked prior to my incarceration; I have them tenfold now. I love the person that I am today, there's no way that I could have said that in the past.

If the Parole Board members would just take a look at who I am today, and not continue to judge me solely on my past, just maybe they will see more parts of the whole of me beyond my past errors.

I made some very bad choices twenty-six (26) years ago, and I am sincerely sorry for them and everyone that was affected by them. The victims as well as my family, neither of them deserved to suffer due to my actions. For that I am absolutely, wholeheartedly sorry to
all of them.

In any event I felt compelled to share my heartfelt concerns with you, because I don't ever get the opportunity to see or speak with any of the Parole Board Members. I understand that it is the Parole Reviewer's position to interpret and convey to Parole Board Members, my sentiments upon his review of my hearing. However, However, with all due respective, I don't believe that the reviewer can truly convey to the members of the Parole Board my true feelings and emotions and overall concerns. The honest reality is that the Parole Reviewer doesn't represent me, and I don't expect him, or her to emote my feelings and concerns to the Parole Board Members the way that I would if I were before them myself.

So again I ask, can you please tell me what more can I do to prove that after twenty-six (26) years of confinement thus far, that I am truly a good candidate for parole release?

In closing, please allow me to add, I hope that you don't in any way misconstrue the content in my letter as being anything other than an individual who has arguably learned through trial and error, and is simply interested in moving forward with his life beyond the past and these prison gates. 

Thank you for your time and patience.

Roger E. Forbes

Here's a link to more posts on parole reform and how to contact the Governor's office, the Parole Board and the Secretary of Public Safety: