INFORMATION ABOUT CURRENT OCCURRING VA PRISON ISSUES


 ----- Original Message ----- 
From: Laurie 
To: Incarcerated In Virginia ; Private Invisiblebars 
Cc: Cure national 
Sent: Wednesday, February 05, 2003 10:54 AM
Subject: [patrickcrusade] Information about current occurring VA Prison Issues

This is a story about four people name Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody. There is an important job to be done and Everybody was asked to do it. Everybody was sure Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it. Somebody got angry about that, because it was Everybody's job. Everybody thought Anybody could do it but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn't do it. It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done. 

Information about occurring Virginia prison issues: 

1. Personal Clothing: 
The information being given out about personal clothing in facilities which will allow personal clothing is: 

1. If the inmate chooses to wear personal clothing, they must turn in ALL state clothing. 

This is an all or nothing approach. It also means that to wear personal clothing the inmate must immediately purchase, through an approve vender: three pairs of jeans, three denim work shirts, three pairs drawers, lined denim jacket and boots, etc.. This is roughly $300 worth of clothing. State clothing MUST be turned in to receive the personal clothing. 

2. Once the personal clothing starts being used at the facility, visitors may no longer wear jeans, denim shirts, or lined denim jackets. 

One response from a loved one to the above information after it was posting on the internet: 

I look upon this action as just another way to mistreat inmates' families. Who does the DOC think pays for everything extra these people get since he makes a whopping wage of .23 and hour? I do. I am working two jobs to try to keep a roof over my head and our children's head so why would I have money to clothe my husband, too. DOC wanted him so badly, let them clothe and feed him. They are doing a lousy job at both. If they want him buy clothes and food at street prices then they need to pay street wages. 

2. Parole review dates: 
I just got off the phone with Joan Wade, Secretary to the Chairman of the Parole Board. She informed me that if the Parole Board's decision is
appealed/reconsideration is requested, and then regardless of the Parole Board's decision on the action, the quarter the response is given in, will now be the quarter for the inmate's reviewed, the next time scheduled. For example, if the inmate was reviewed last year (January 2002) in the first quarter, and the response is given in the second quarter, then the inmate's new review will now be in the second quarter. If the inmate then appealed (or asked for a reconsideration) that April decision, and the response was not given until the third quarter (August 2002), the inmate WILL NOT be seen until the third quarter of the next year that he/she is to be seen (on a yearly rotation that would be August 2003). I questioned if this doesn't penalize the inmate for appealing the decision as it puts them off for an extra six months or more. Ms. Wade said she "supposed," however, the computer figures the next date of review from the date of the "last review." Therefore, the answer to the request for reconsideration, or appeal, would be the date that the next review date is figured from. I then asked, "If a request for reconsideration or appeal is filed, and the Board chooses not to answer it for several years, then the inmate would be put off from having the next date of review set until the
reconsideration/appeal is complete." I was told that this was correct; however "the Board doesn't do things like that." She also informed me that as of Monday, February 3, 2003, the Board has officially decided NOT to put inmates back in the correct quarter for review if the computer enters the wrong date or quarter, because "it is too much work and there are too many people who are affected." Again I asked, doesn't this penalize the inmate for utilizing their due process, and I was told, "I suppose you can look at it like that. But, that is just the way the computer works." 

3. Violent Offender Release Program 
There is information posted in the various facilities about a Violent Offender Release Program being created by the DOC from grant money received. This program is to transition those persons convicted of violent offences back to the community. On the flyer, this program sounds good; however, I talked with Mario Woodard, DOC, on February 3, 2003. In order to be CONSIDERED for the program, the violent offender must meet the criteria (be 35 years of age or younger, be a violent offender, release plans are to the district where the program is in effect, in need of vocational and technological training, and in need of psychological services). Though the flyer talks about a six month program, in reality the program is ONLY the last 45 days of the incarceration (IF the person meets the criteria). Mr. Woodard informed me that if and when the Parole Board grants parole or 45 days from max date, persons would be reviewed for eligibility to be admitted to this program. Currently, the program is slated to be run in Fairfax ONLY. Mr. Woodward hoped that within three years they could get a similar program in Richmond, and then they would begin looking at other areas. 

Thus if you live in the Fairfax area, and are under 35 and in for a violent offence, and are approved for release, your last 45 days will be spent in the Fairfax County Jail, where you will receive Vocational Training, Technology Training, and Psychological Counseling, in addition to Stress Management, Anger Management, Money Management, Medication Management, Sex Offender Treatment, and Substance Abuse Treatment! 

OPINION: 

I have no idea how many prisoners, or their families, can actually afford to put up the $300+ to get the clothing all at once, who don't mind being put off an extra three months or longer for parole review, or meet the eligibility requirements for the Violent Offender Release Program, however if this spiral of "harassment" (reduced meals/food; personal property issues; high priced telephone calls; reduced access to commissary; 21 Day Rule; reduced access to courts or public records; no vocational, educational or pre-release programs for most; etc.) is to be stopped, then you MUST encourage everyone you know on the outside to get involved. 

Whether you like the person (s) running CURE's (Citizens United for the Rehabilitation of Errants) or not, in many states, they ARE the ONLY advocacy organization for prisoner's rights. They do NOT fix individual's problems, though they may be able to tell you or your loved ones who to call to get that individual help. What they do is: continually lobby the legislators, attend the millions of government committee meetings, and to hold rally's to attempt to improved conditions for those person's in some way entangled with the criminal justice system. 

HOWEVER, in Virginia, the Director, Jean Auldridge, and her Assistant, Keith DeBlasio, CAN NOT do this alone! Personally, I tried to start a branch chapter of VA CURE in the Hampton Roads area, and NO ONE attended! Therefore, I can assume no one cares, in this area (which has a population of over 1,551,351 according to the 2000 Census). 

As of June 2002, there were on average 31,367 persons under the control of the VA Department of Correction, yet there are LESS than 100 people state wide (one person representing approximately 320 inmates and their families) fighting to change: the conditions in the prisons, prisoner's access to the courts, information and educational programming, as well as, prisoner's ability to get released from prison. If each person incarcerated had just ONE person to represent them, to be their voice, to attend some of the committee meetings, to meet with Legislators, to attend Supreme Court Hearings, and to participate in rally's, that would make a statement to the Legislators that people care about this issue. 

In early January, the case came before the VA Supreme Court concerning MCI and the DOC. VA Cure's asked people to pack the courtroom so that it could be shown that there was support for the issue, EIGHT people attended! Obviously NO ONE CARES whether the phone bills get lowered or whether remote call forwarding numbers can be utilized. I know this because only eight people, representing 31,367 famlies, cared enough to attend. Only eight persons cared that the state made over $6,000,000 in 2000 from families trying to maintain contact with loved ones. Oh, I hear a lot of people TALK about how terrible these and other issues are, but it is what people are DOING that makes the biggest impact, and they are doing NOTHING. 

I was recently asked, "Should we quit trying to change the system (give up)?" I don't know the answer to that question. This core group of 100, who keeps working at these issues, is tired and burnt-out. We are tired of having our loved ones behind bars bear the brunt of the retaliation by the DOC for our outspokenness as we try to make changes which will benefit ALL who are behind bars. CURE is operating with a deficit. NO ONE in that organization is paid. What they do is, on their own time and at their own expense and the expense of their loved one behind bars. The dues to CURE's does not cover the costs of the many mailings to inmates, families, and government officials, envelops, printer ink, transportation, office space, file cabinets, phone and fax lines, computer or the many hours away from family, jobs, or missed visiting hours. Most letters to CURE don't get answered, because there is NO ONE TO answer them, and the volume of mail is tremendous. This is not just true in Virginia, but it is true throughout the country. With over 2,000,000 persons entangled in the criminal justice system (1 in every 3 Black persons) VERY FEW people are standing up (or sitting down) to say anything. Change is NOT going to come from the Jesse Jackson's, Louis Farrakhan's or the Al Sharpton's of the world. Change, if it is to come, MUST come from the people who are impacted most by these policies. This means YOU must write letters, not only grievances, but LETTERS, to the representatives for the district you will/would be release to (if eligible for release). Your family, friends, churches and associates MUST write letters, MUST call, MUST visit and talk with their representatives (state and national) whether they vote or not. "I'll pray for you," doesn't get it anymore. This NEEDS ACTION. Pray all you want, BUT WRITE, CALL, and/or VISIT representatives. 

Otherwise, it ends up that Everybody blames Somebody when Nobody does what Anybody could have done. 
 

Sincerely, 

Laurie 


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