Thursday, January 12, 2017

HARD TIME VIRGINIA, Volume 2, Number 1 (an occasional update on Virginia's prisons)

The majority of Virginia's parole eligible inmates are over 50
Governor Announces Major Parole Board Change

Virginia Parole Board member Adrianne Bennett, appointed to the Board last year, has been named as its new chair, replacing Karen Brown, who has served in that role since 2011. Prior to her new appointment Bennett worked in the Norfolk and Virginia Beach Public Defender’s Office. 

Ms. Brown is being replaced by Jean Wooden Cunningham, a former member of the Virginia House of Delegates. Cunningham has served as Chair of the State Board of Elections and as a member of the State Council of Higher Education. 

According to an article in the January 10, 2017 Richmond Times-Dispatch article, Gov. Terry McAuliffe has been concerned that the five-member panel was not moving quickly enough on parole reforms proposed in 2015. 

According to the Times, McAuliffe said, “I want to make sure that we are moving expeditiously on these parole hearings. I want to make sure that we’re doing everything that we possibly can.” 

As of October, 2,765 inmates in Virginia prisons were eligible for parole, according to the Times, which means that at an average cost of $28,000 to incarcerate one inmate annually, the  estimated cost of housing parole-eligible inmates is over $77 million. And with older inmates the cost can be much greater, while their risk of reoffending is greatly diminished after age 50.

It remains to be seen whether the newly constituted Board will increase its parole grant rate for old law (incarcerated before parole was abolished in 1995) and geriatric inmates. Once at 41%, the current rate of parole releases granted is under 6% of the cases the Board reviews each year.

A recent sad example is that of Minor Junior Smith, age 70, who is legally blind and has been incarcerated for over 45 years. Known by most prisoners as Smitty, he has become proficient in reading and transcribing in Braille and is considered one of the hardest workers in the Buckingham Correctional Center's food service, where has worked for over 12 years. A prolific poet, he has been a model prisoner throughout his confinement, and has published a book about his hard life as a child called "ABUSED." 

Mr. Smith was recently turned down for parole release for the 30th heartbreaking time. 

(See one of his recent poems below)

Fluvanna Correctional Center For Women Cited For Healthcare Nightmare

An article in the December 10, 2016, Virginian-Pilot highlights a pattern of serious medical neglect and malpractice at the Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women, one of two women's prisons in the state. 

This resulted in a 2012 lawsuit on behalf of women for "failure to meet the minimum standards of medical care for inmates," according to the Pilot. The article goes on to say that a settlement was reached in which a monitor was appointed to oversee its healthcare services, and "to bring the level of care up to the bare minimum a state must provide for those it imprisons," but added that "Fluvanna has yet to meet that standard, according to the independent monitor’s most recent report."

Perhaps the saddest example of that kind of neglect has to do with an inmate serving time on drug charges who had colostomy surgery due to a cancerous mass in her bowels. She went through enormous pain due to her condition and her chemotherapy and radiation treatments, but was given inadequate pain medication and had to wait five months to return to U.Va. for a follow-up appointment she finally had in July of 2014, By that time she had developed a severe blood infection that had spread throughout her body, and "her tumor had grown through her buttocks and was continuing to enlarge outside her body".

Increased Copays Discourage Inmates From Seeking Healthcare

Since a typical prisoner is paid only $0.27 an hour at an average of 20 hours of work per week (no more than 30), a month's pay is typically under $25. If an inmate needs a set of dentures the copay is $390, any medication costs $2 per prescription, and for a pair of bifocals an inmate is charged $40. 

No offender is denied medical care due to his or her inability to provide the co-payment, but all but $5 each month of an inmate has in their account must first go toward these expenses.

In 2015 the Department of Corrections collected $616,250 in medical copays from inmates and their families.

Here's a link to email the Governor with your commendations and concerns

Since this is the beginning of the legislation session, here's the email address for Senator Mark Obenshain, and this for local delegate Tony Wilt

Here's one of Minor Junior Smith's most recent poems:


"Lake Side"

To keep these poems balanced, I must compose at least one about old Lake Side.
Each summer, people of all ages traveled to the amusement park for a great ride.
Sam, Sally, and Peter Austin came up to take us back down there before school.
Daddy and Sam moved our dinner table out on the back porch, where it was cool.
In leg-braces, I was having a mild brush with polio, so I had hobbled out of the way.
Following a full recovery, the braces would be returned to our family doctor without delay.

I wasn't thrilled a bit about riding hobbyhorses, but I would enjoy the car ride.
Pete had brought his new bow and arrow set, totting a cap-pistol by each side.
It was too late in the season to pick red plums or for tying June-bugs on a string.
So, after we'd shot some caps and arrows, we took turns swinging in the swing.
By pulling its string too hard, Pete broke the bow. So what! He was merely human.
Our parents expected Dwight D. Eisenhower to govern the office of President Truman.

Two-Gun Pete and I trailed along behind our mamas over to the dairy twice.
Each time, we boys couldn't resist stopping by the back porch for Koolaide without ice.
Sam helped daddy manage chores before we all got cleaned up to leave the farm.
Who cared if butter wouldn't melt in my mouth or if a watch would not run on mama's arm.
My parents and I followed the Austins to the car and settled in the rear seat.
Peter sat in front with his parents; they always acted so nice and looked so neat.

While riding smoothly over the rocky road, daddy got out and opened the gate.
Our threesome had taken the Martin Family down to Lake Side on an earlier date.
At the Salem Tannery, Sam took the bypass, which lead us directly to Lake Side.
For lunch, mama had served us cake and peaches after all that chicken she'd fried.
Near the Ticket Stand, an array of multi-colored lights lit up the sky's night.
Every imaginable ride was either zooming near the ground or soaring overhead in flight.

Just like he owned the place, Pete lead the way to a particular hobbyhorse.
Our mamas helped us mount; then we rode off accompanied by a musical course.
Mama always wore lipstick when she went out and sometimes a skirt and blouse.
Daddy had chuckled and followed Sam to take a brief tour through the Crazy House.
Bored from having to wait in the car one Sunday, our mamas had mentioned divorces.
Our group rejoined inside the arcade once Pete and I had dismounted the horses.

Tired and sleepy from the day's activities, I hung around mama like a little coot.
With an odd looking gun, Pete mowed toy soldiers down, but I didn't get to shoot.
He threw spears and popped three balloons on a corkboard to win a teddy-bear.
Our daddies were friendly with mama's niece, June, who was already there.
Two-Gun Pete took just five of us back to the car with prize in hand.
During our recreation, I wondered why they hadn't opened the Cotton-Candy Stand.
Post a Comment