Tuesday, September 20, 2016

An Urgent Letter To Governor McAuliffe

The following sample letter was written by one of several DOC inmates with whom I correspond. Please feel free to use any part of it as you communicate your own concerns to the Governor:

Governor Terry McAuliffe
Honorable Terry McAuliffe, Governor
Patrick Henry Bldg. - Third Floor
1111 East Broad Street
Richmond, Virginia 23219
Fax: (804) 371-6351

Dear Governor McAuliffe:

News of the recent budget shortfall precipitated our thinking toward a method to save taxpayers' dollars allotted to Virginia's prison system, without jeopardizing public safety. It is apparent that we, the taxpayers, are financing the incarceration of many individuals "who are no longer a danger" to our communities, due largely to their ages. The Virginia Department of Corrections currently houses model inmates that are nearly ninety years old. As I am sure you are aware, statistics are available to backup this claim. These facts are very disturbing to us as human beings.

Currently, there are nearly 2,800 parole eligible 'Old-Law' inmates who have been incarcerated a minimum of 21 years and up to at least 47 years that we're aware of. Many are first-time offenders who have earned and deserve a second chance through parole. If 80% of these inmates were paroled, "a cost-savings of $61.5 million dollars," (2,240 inmates x $27,462 (Footnote 1) ) per year would be realized.

Additionally, there are nearly 600 Geriatric-release eligible inmates with a statistical recidivism rate of less than 1% (Footnote 2) (over 60 years of age). Nationally, the average cost of housing inmates over 50 is $68,000 (Footnote 2) (more for those over age 60). If 80% of geriatric inmates were released under supervision, "a cost-savings of $33 million dollars annually" would accrue, (400 inmates x $68,000). The geriatric population is the fastest growing age group in the system with the lowest recidivism rate and the highest cost to taxpayers.

Ninety-five percent of the 'Old-Law' inmates are over 40 years of age; averaged with geriatric eligible inmates, all of whom are over 60, nets an average age of parole eligible inmates of 50 years of age. Utilizing a mean recidivism rate of 1.5% (2% over 50 and 1% over 60), prisoners who might reoffend amount statistically to "only 41 inmates who might reoffend, out of 2,720 who could safely be released!"

Governor McAuliffe, as you are aware, the rate of parole in the Commonwealth comes under your purview as Chief Executive. Please consider instructing your Parole Board to implement a policy of increasing the parole rate substantially for the following reasons:

> Savings of nearly $100 million dollars annually, with minimal risk to public safety.
> Relieve prison over-crowding and/or closing up to 3 major institutions.
> Allow many elderly and first-time offenders a chance at redemption.
> Use savings to augment education in the Commonwealth (our teachers are paid $7,200 below national average).
> Transform corrections in Virginia to a more forward thinking posture.
> Every offender should be educated, treated and released at the earliest possible time when they are no longer a threat to society.
> Provide services to help returning citizens reenter safely back into communities without the stigma of being an ex-offender looming over them for the rest of their lives.
> At what age or for how many continuous years would incarcerating individuals satisfactory and does not constitute Cruel and Unusual Inhumane Treatment of inmates. We would say no more than twenty years years of reprogramming and training preparing individuals for society. Also anyone who meets the current Virginia Geriatric Law and does not pose a threat to citizens should be granted parole.

We as taxpayers can no longer afford the antiquated, costly, inhumane and excessively punitive system of Corrections which the Commonwealth employs. As recent polls show, the majority of the public is for increased parole. Our current budget shortfall provides you a "Golden Opportunity" to implement the aforementioned bold actions and avoid tax increases.

Thank you for your efforts, time and consideration in the aforementioned matter. A response would be appreciated.


cc: Mr. Brian Moran
      Department of Public Safety and Homeland Security
      P.O. Box 1475
      Richmond, Virginia 23218
     Office: 804-786-5351
     Fax Line: 804-225-3882
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