Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Local Citizens Speak Out Against Jail Expansion

Built in 1994, this facility increased our jail capacity by five times.

It was heartening to see the headline on the front page article in this morning's Daily News-Record, "Residents Urge Alternatives To Jail Time".

Twenty-five of the 40-50 citizens who attended the hearing at the City Council Chamber spoke out clearly and strongly against building more jail space. Not one person spoke in favor of spending millions on more jail cells in light of our already having increased capacity to over five times the space we had when the current facility was built only two decades ago.

Harrisonburg, rated the 9th safest city in the U.S., could and should become a model community for the use of proven alternatives to incarceration for offenders, particularly for those who pose no danger to the community but may need increased supervision, mental health and/or substance abuse treatment. and for those who could and should be working at actually making actual amends for wrongs they have done to others.

The Fairfield Center is already set up to do this kind of work with offenders, utilizing an internationally recognized Restorative Justice approach pioneered by our own Howard Zehr of EMU's Center for Justice and Peacebuilding. This program was mentioned by numerous speakers last night and could be a key part of our community modeling more cost-effective and change producing alternative to incarceration in many cases.

I would love to see a large group of citizens attend the last of the three scheduled hearings at Turner Ashby High School set for this Thursday, August 14 from 6-8 pm. Our community deserves more time to study the proposal the Richmond-based Moseley Architects firm is to have finished by the end of the year rather than  have the City Council and County Board of Supervisors feeling they need to already take some action by that time. The City of Richmond is taking five years for a similar process.

Meanwhile, here's a link to a recent post on this topic. And if you want to have your name and local post office listed on an online petition asking for more time email me at simply give your name and local address in the comment section below.
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