Category Archives: Crime and corrections

Sustaining the Biggest Public Nuisance in Richmond

Mosby Court, public housing project in Richmond

Republished from Cranky’s Blog.

Not satisfied at maintaining the largest public nuisance in Richmond – the one that just led to the shooting death of a State Policeman – the Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority (RHHA) now proposes to do nothing realistic about it:

  • Fencing and gates. RRHA says this remedy is “largely . . . impractical.” I guess killing policemen is more “practical.”
  • Parking stickers and IDs. Not a bad idea, but worthless until they have the off-duty cops in place to catch the trespassers.
  • Empowerment programs. So, the problem largely is male visitors and they are going to “empower” the tenant girlfriends who are harboring those males? Please! The remedy is to evict those girlfriends.
  • Summer programs for the kids. Good thing to do but unrelated to the visiting male problem.

This is not rocket science, folks:

  • The feds tell us “(1) that effective property management can have a major impact on the health of a community, and (2) that accessible, legitimate techniques can be used to stop the spread of drug activity on rental property.”
  • Indeed, as to drugs (and certainly as to other crime), nuisance abatement is the sole tactic that has been shown scientifically to reduce crime in residential places. The DOJ monograph says: “With the evidence available we are relatively certain that holding private landlords accountable for drug dealing on their property by threatening abatement reduces drug related crimes.” Whether as to drug activity or other disorder, the landlord is the only entity that can make the physical changes to the property, evict the troublesome tenants, hire the security, control the access, and enforce the lease terms necessary to make the property safe.

Yet, RRHA, aside from the fences they have rejected, is not talking about what we know can help here:

  • Lights;
  • Cameras;
  • Access control;
  • Off-duty cops on patrol;
  • Rigorous trespass enforcement; and
  • Rigorous lease enforcement (i.e., eviction of the girlfriend who harbors the disorder)

As to that last point, the HUD lease [at Para. 25] contains the necessary provisions. These include eviction for, inter alia:

  • Drug related criminal activity engaged in  on or near the premises by any tenant, household member, or guest; and
  • Criminal activity by a tenant, any member of the tenant’s household, a guest or another person under the tenant’s control that threatens the health, safety or right to peaceful enjoyment of the premises by other residents or by persons residing in the immediate vicinity.

Yet, when I spoke with them about this (in the distant past), they said

  • Legal Aid makes it difficult to do anything;
  • The judges are reluctant to enforce the lease;
  • It would be “onerous” to ask RRHA staff to follow up on all offense reports and calls for service; and
  • Given the quality of the people who live in subsidized housing, RRHA can’t be expected to do much better.

To judge from their response to the current murder rate, and the shooting of the policeman by a trespasser who was living at RRHA, their indifferent attitude and the soft bigotry of their low expectations have not improved.

It is clear that RRHA is not serious about controlling its property. City Council is quiescent. The Commonwealth’s Attorney is not prosecuting the RRHA Board for maintaining the nuisance. Your tax dollars at “work.”

Bringing Social Science Rigor to Jailhouse Programs

Sarah Scarbrough interacts with Richmond city jail inmates. Photo credit: Style Weekly.

Richmond Sheriff C.T. Woody spent his early career as a policeman and detective putting people behind bars. As sheriff, he has made his mark by trying to keep people out of jail.

One of the smartest things Woody did was bring on Sarah Scarbrough as director of internal programs at the city jail to deliver programs that give inmates the life skills needed to cope on the outside. One of the smartest things that Scarbrough has done is to subject the jailhouse programs to rigorous social scientific analysis to determine what works to reduce recidivism and what doesn’t.

A recent study by a University of Richmond professor, Lisa Jobe-Shields, found that inmates who enroll in the city’s Recovering from Everyday Addictive Lifestyles program have shown a demonstrably lower rate of recidivism than those who don’t. But the study had an important caveat — the results apply only to those who participate for more than 90 days, reports the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Nationally, recidivism runs between 60% and 70%. In Richmond, where Woody has long emphasized learning and self-improvement programs in the jail, the rate is lower. The Jobe-Shields study found that the rate for inmates who participated in the Addictive Lifestyles program for more than 90 days is lower still: Only 30% re-offended within a year of release, compared to 55% who didn’t. There was no difference in the rate for those who took party for fewer than 90 days.

As the Times-Dispatch describes the program, it “treats jail life like a full-time job where male and female inmates complete classes ranging from remedial math and creative writing to anger management, parenting and drug abuse treatment through a 40-hour week.”

The study provides feedback for improving the program. Noting that the city jail is a short-term facility, some inmates don’t stay long enough to complete the program. Scarbrough said she plans to add evening and weekend sessions to extend the program beyond a 40-hour week. She also would like to provide support to inmates who were released from graduating from the program.

Bacon’s bottom line: I’m not saying that Woody and Scarbrough have devised the nation’s best anti-recidivism program — there may well be programs in other parts of the country that do just as well, or even better. But they are going about the job the right way, and results should improve over time as they incorporate feedback and make continual improvements to the program.

The sociological reality is that many jail inmates come from shattered families and dysfunctional subcultures of poverty, and had no one to teach them basic skills required to function successfully in life. In the Woody-Scarbrough paradigm, jail does far more than keep criminals off the streets — it provides an opportunity for inmate to learn life skills that will enable them to function successfully in society as workers, parents, family members and members of the community.

It is a truism that jails and prisons can be incubators of crime — inmates learn how to be more successful criminals. Likewise, it is a truism that society should invest in giving inmates the skills they need to become productive members of society. Jails offer many programs run by noble-minded people with ideas of how to help. But which skills are most needed to function on the outside? What is the best way to inculcate those skills? Which programs work the best, and what traits make them successful? Virginia sheriffs can’t reliably make those judgments based on anecdotal evidence.

Finding reliable answers requires social scientific rigor. By nudging government programs toward what works, social-scientific insights can save thousands of inmates from lives of crime — and, as a worthwhile bonus, save taxpayers millions of dollars.

Falling Apart: Rockbridge County Edition

Robert E. Clark, 39, entered Alford pleas to nine counts of sexual abuse: not admitting guilt but acknowledging that there was sufficient evidence to convict him.

Here’s a story where America’s fraying social fabric intersects with near-criminal bureaucratic indifference. For context, read about the social breakdown of white America as described by sociologist Charles Murray in “Falling Apart.”

After seven months of investigation, a special grand jury has found dysfunction and incompetence “from top to bottom” at the Rockbridge Area Department of Social Services, reports the Roanoke Times.

“Don’t write up reports,” a child-welfare supervisor, who went unnamed in the article, allegedly said. “It takes a lot of work for us to enter that into the system and get it taken care of.”

Despite evidence that the supervisor had shredded call reports to lighten the work load, the grand jury concluded there were no grounds for criminal prosecution. Still, the investigation found that problems extended beyond one bad supervisor, the Times says:

Board members, supervisors and staffers all contributed to a breakdown in the department’s Child Protective Services Unit, which “failed in its primary mission to our community, that of protecting the safety and well-being of our most vulnerable population: The children of the Rockbridge/Lexington/Buena Vista area,” the report stated.

The supervisor, who was fired during an internal social services review, invoked her Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate herself more than 60 times during the grand jury proceedings.

An earlier article in the Roanoke Times described one especially atrocious case of neglect and abuse uncovered in Rockbridge County.

In 2015, Rockbridge County Deputy R.T. McCullough pulled his patrol car into a mobile home park to check a report about two girls, ages 3 and 8. As he approached the home, he was struck by the stench of urine and the sight of cockroaches crawling over the front porch and screen door. Inside, he found thousands of the bugs covering over the walls and furniture — and a three-year-old girl who sat crying at the kitchen counter.

Under questioning the girls revealed that they had been sexually abused by one Robert E. Clark. (It’s not clear from the article what Clark’s relationship to the girls was.) The Times continues:

The 8-year-old confided to her foster mother and a counselor that over a four-month period in 2015, Clark repeatedly raped and molested her and her 3-year old sister, forced them to have sex with one another and beat them with a belt while they were naked.

Clark’s sister, Samantha K. Simmons, is charged with sexually abusing two young boys in a junked Ford van that sat nearby.

The desecration of children is not a new phenomenon in our society. And a scandal in one Virginia county hardly constitutes proof of a growing problem. Indeed, a 2012 New York Times article indicated that child sexual abuse had plummeted 60% between 1992 and and 2010. The reasons for the decline were not clear, although the article pointed to a number of possible factors, such as greater public awareness, stepped-up prevention efforts, better training and education, specialized policing, and the presence in many cities of child advocacy centers.

While it’s possible that such practices have driven down the incidence of child abuse, I fear that the ongoing social disintegration of the poor and working class — chronic under-employment and under-employment, out-of-wedlock births, non-paternal boyfriends moving in with mothers and their children, substance abuse, and related behaviors — are creating the conditions for endemic child abuse. I expect that more recent statistics than those quoted in the NY Times would show that the incidence of child abuse is getting worse, not better.

That assumes, of course, that the statistics are trustworthy. If Rockbridge County social welfare workers were shredding call reports, who knows if their counterparts were doing the same thing elsewhere. Frankly, it’s hard to know what to believe.

The Left’s War on the Poor: Sanctuary City Edition

Declaring Richmond a sanctuary city would protect criminal elements of the illegal alien population from deportation

Declaring Richmond a sanctuary city would protect criminal elements of the illegal alien population from deportation. Data source: Richmond Times-Dispatch

In February a debate erupted over the City of Richmond’s approach to dealing with illegal immigrants. Mayor Levar Stoney issued a directive reiterating a city policy prohibiting police from asking people about their immigration status in the normal course of business.

But that wasn’t good enough for protesters who called for the city to declare itself a sanctuary for illegal immigrants, members of the LGBTQ community, Muslims and African Americans. Under state law, Richmond authorities are supposed to send the immigration status of jail inmates to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Protesters demanded that the city deny ICE officials access to the jail unless they have a warrant from a judge.

It’s not clear how LGBTQs, Muslims and African Americans would benefit from sanctuary-city status, but let’s not let this ritualistic invocation of other victim groups detain us here. And let us not get dragged into a discussion of President Trump’s polarizing rhetoric regarding illegal immigrants or the wisdom (or lack of it) of building a big, beautiful wall. Let us turn our attention to the very people the protesters profess to be concerned about — immigrants.

In an excellent piece published over the weekend, Mark Bowes with the Richmond Times-Dispatch provided detailed data on the number of illegals held in Virginia jails. Since 2008, local and regional facilities with the ten largest illegal-immigrant populations have held nearly 13,800 illegal immigrants, of whom 4,700 were set for deportation. These numbers do not include inmates whose immigration status could not be determined,

Bowes interviewed Juan Vega, a naturalized citizen who was born in Nicaragua and came to the United States with his family as a young boy. As a Spanish-speaking Chesterfield County prosecutor, Vega interacts daily with the county’s growing Hispanic community that included more than 27,000 legal and illegal residents in 2005.

“Many politicians and other people in the community throughout the nation are really going out on a limb for these violent individuals, to keep them here, and I thought, this is kind of disturbing where I am coming from, with what I see here in the courtroom every week,” the prosecutor said.

He feels a responsibility to speak out, Vega said, because a non-Latino would be labeled a racist.

Academics can argue back and forth over whether illegal immigrants are more or less violent than native-born Americans — there is evidence cutting both ways — but there is no denying that some illegal immigrants are violent. And when Hispanic illegals come to Virginia, they live amidst other Hispanics. Said Vega: “They go to those Latino communities where there are a lot of legal Latinos, who they prey upon.”

In the article, Bowes highlighted several high-profile Chesterfield County crimes involving illegal immigrants. Broadly speaking, these crimes fall into two categories. One consists of drunk driving, in which victims appear to be random members of the community. The other consists of robbing, stabbing, raping, shooting and general criminal mayhem, in which the victims are usually known to the perpetrators — in other words, the victims are usually other Latinos.

For example, in 2011 Melecio Hernandez, an illegal Mexican immigrant, was convicted of crawling through the window of a female neighbor and sexually assaulting her. In 2012 Felix Carillo-Fuentes, an illegal immigrant from El Salvador, cut his pregnant fiancee and stabbed 16 times a man he believed to be a romantic rival. In 2015, a mob led by an illegal immigrant from Mexico attacked Salvador Garcia-Cruz, a legal immigrant, outside a nightclub, punching him, kicking him and stabbing him above the eye.

“Every single victim of mine — whether they’re here illegally, or are citizens or have work permits — has said it’s a good idea to deport other violent illegal immigrants,” Vega said. “They’re scared there’s going to be some kind of retribution (after the felons) serve their time and leave prison.”

Bacon’s bottom line: It is a core belief of the Left that America is a hopelessly racist, misogynist, homophobic society. The Left is always on the lookout for victims who fit that narrative. Thus, we see black high school students who disrupt the educational experience of their classmates elevated to victim status on the grounds that they are suspended at disproportionate rates compared to other races. Similarly, we see illegal-immigrant criminals elevated to victim status on the grounds that… frankly, I’m not sure what grounds… Because racism. Because Trump. It makes no sense to me.

Whatever the logic or illogic in spinning these narratives, lefties ignore the invisible victims, be they black students who find themselves in classrooms where no one can learn or legal Latino immigrants who are preyed upon by the criminals in their midst.

Thus the real racists — racist in the leftist sense of propounding policies that have disproportionate impact on minority groups — are the leftists themselves. In the case of Richmond as sanctuary city, those who would keep illegal-immigrant criminals here in Virginia are allowing them to continue abusing law-abiding Latinos (whether here legally or illegally). If the goal is to help the poor and downtrodden, Richmond should not only reject sanctuary city status, it should do precisely the opposite — declare its intention to cooperate fully with the ICE and deport the bad actors.

Cats Laying Down with Dogs

When former attorney general Ken Cuccinelli agrees with Governor Terry McAuliffe’s proposed criminal justice reforms, it’s a sign that conservatives and liberals actually might be able to overcome their differences and get something useful done.

In a Washington Post op-ed last week, Cuccinelli made the case for raising the felony theft threshold from $200, tied for lowest in the nation, and to stop suspending a driver’s license for not paying court fines and fees.

If someone steals an item worth more than $200, the crime becomes a grand larceny and a felony rather than a misdemeanor. The purchasing power of $200 when Virginia’s threshold was set in 1980 is greater than $500 when adjusted for inflation. The Virginia justice system should focus its resources on more serious offenders, Cuccinelli says, not toss nonviolent youths into juvenile correction facilities at an average cost of $150,000 per head.

Likewise, suspending drivers licenses for unpaid court fines and fees makes it difficult for hundreds of thousands of Virginians to maintain gainful unemployment and repay those very same court fines and fees. “This has become government’s version of squeezing blood from a turnip, and it is a fight in which conservatives in Virginia can work to limit government abuse,” writes Cuccinelli.

Reforms have been proposed in the past, but they have been blocked by conservative Republicans in the legislature. I’m not sure what their objections are. Perhaps don’t want to be perceived as “soft on crime.” Perhaps Cuccinelli, a firebrand conservative, will give them the ideological cover they need to change positions.

It’s fine to crack down on violent and hard-core criminals — throw the book at them, as far as I’m concerned. But we should make it easier for petty criminals and those unable to pay their court costs to recover from their mistakes and become productive, tax-paying citizens. Raising the felony theft threshold and restoring licenses to drivers who lost them for non-driving offenses are two very good places to start.

Thinking Sensibly about Virginia State Police Salaries

Lawmakers proposes big increase for Virginia State Police salaries.

Virginia State Police graduates. Lawmakers propose a big increase in starting salaries. Photo credit: InsideNova.com.

Virginia State Police troopers would receive a $7,000 pay raise — a 22.3% boost for starting salaries — under a budget proposal that also would provide a 3% pay raise for all state employees, reports the Richmond Times-Dispatch. The dramatic pay hike comes in response to deteriorating morale and a surge in state trooper departures.

Is such a big pay raise justified in the midst of a budget crunch in which lawmakers are forced to cut other programs?

Clearly, the state police have a massive problem. In November, the agency had 257 vacancies in a sworn force of 2,148, according to the Daily Press. Over the past few years, the state police averaged six departures monthly, reports the T-D. That number increased to 13 per month in last year and shot up to 22 in just the first 20 days of 2017.

By my back-of-the-envelope calculations, paying 2,150 officers an extra $7,000 each will cost the state about $15 million per year. That is a considerable sum. However, if the pay increase staunches the loss of manpower, it will be offset by a reduced training costs. The Times-Dispatch article notes that it costs the City of Richmond about $100,000 to get a recruit trained and on the street. Assuming that the cost to the state police is roughly comparable, and assuming the pay hike reduces the number of departures back to the pre-crisis norm of six per month, the state police will need to train 80 to 90 fewer troopers each year. That would represent a savings of $8 million to $9 million. (I have made several assumptions here, which undoubtedly can be refined, but you get the gist.)

Thus, while the $15 million departmental pay raise will not fully pay for itself through reduced turnover, the adjusted cost when taking training expenses into account will be considerably lower.

Are there other ways to offset the expense? Presumably, some state police functions are more critical than others, and some offer more law enforcement bang for the buck than others. Could the troopers be relieved of low value-added tasks that soak up manpower?

For example, lawmakers enacted a policy last year as part of a bipartisan compromise on gun control, in which state police conduct background checks at gun shows. Implementing that policy cost $300,000 annually to pay for three full-time civilian positions, as the Times-Dispatch reports here. In its first six months, the program resulted in only one person being denied the purchase of a weapon at 41 Virginia gun shows. The man was wanted for failing to appear before a grand jury in September. Was that one detention worth $300,000?

Six months may not be sufficient time to fairly judge the effectiveness of the program. But that’s the kind of question we need to be asking. Instead of stroking the state police a $15 million check, legislators should ask the top brass to enumerate all the tasks state troopers are called upon to perform. How much manpower do those jobs require? What value do they provide? Can we reduce the number of troopers on payroll without harming public safety?

It seems clear that we need to increase Virginia State Police salaries, and equally clear that the state will recoup some of that expense through reduced training expenditures. However, we should not assume that the only way to pay for higher salaries is to pump more money into the agency. Perhaps we can scale back tasks of marginal value. Unfortunately, I see no indication in the news coverage of this issue that anyone has even considered that alternative.

Headline of the Day

Headline from today’s Richmond Times-Dispatch: “Lakeside man charged in rape of 9-year-old boy; roommate charged earlier this month with bestiality.”

File that story under, “What’s this country coming to?”

Thinking Correctly about Corrections

Source: "State of the Region: Hampton Roads 2016."

Source: “State of the Region: Hampton Roads 2016.”

by James A. Bacon

In 2015 the Commonwealth of Virginia spent $1.13 billion operating state prisons holding 25,000 inmates. Is the state spending too much imprisoning people, or too little? Could it spend the money better? Those are questions we need to ask as Virginia faces a future of chronic fiscal stress. As I have blogged previously, we need to re-think state government from top to bottom, stem to stern.

James V. Koch, president emeritus of Old Dominion University and the lead author of “The State of the Region: Hampton Roads 2016,” applies economic thinking to the way Virginia deals with crime, incarceration and rehabilitation. His analysis doesn’t fit traditional “liberal” or “conservative” views of the problem, which makes it all the more worth thinking about.

The modern era of prison administration in Virginia began in 1994 when, at the urging of then-Governor George Allen, the General Assembly abolished parole for violent offenders. A tougher parole law, combined with a three-strikes-and-you’re-out law, precipitated a surge in Virginia’s prison population as offenders served longer sentences. The cost of running the prison system increased from 2.82% of total state expenditures in 1993 to 3.79% in 2002, making it one of the fastest-growing categories of state spending. Although absolute costs have continued to increase, prison’s share of state spending declined to 3.21% in 2015 as crime rates fell and the size of the prison population leveled off.

A central issue that Koch addresses is to what extent the get-tough approach on sentencing and parole contributed to the decline in crime rates. Are we keeping more offenders than necessary in prison and running up the cost of corrections more than we need to?

His review of the literature led Koch to conclude that “incapacitation” — taking criminals off the streets — is one of several factors accounting for Virginia’s decline in crime. “The available reputable research concerning the determinants of crime rates does not point to a single cause for the declines we have observed,” he writes. “Even so, the consensus is that increased incarceration probably [accounts for] 10 to 15 percent of observed declines in these rates.”

Here’s where it gets interesting:

It seems likely that the law of diminishing returns applies to law enforcement and imprisonment. Arrests focused on the most serious crimes and habitual criminals likely will reduce crime rates; however, as the volume of arrests increases, less serious crimes receive more attention and less dangerous criminals are arrested. Hence, each incremental arrest generates a progressively smaller decline in crime rates.

What this says to me is that the incapacitation strategy does work, but it needs to be fine-tuned.

Virginia spends $28,000 per inmate on average to operate its prisons, according to Koch’s data. Presumably, the cost of incarcerating less dangerous inmates in low- and medium-security prisoners is somewhat lower, but let’s use that number for purposes of comparison. What is the cost of operating an outpatient substance abuse program? Half? Two-thirds? And how does the recidivism rate from substance abuse programs compare to the recidivism rates for prison? If Virginia could take 5,000 substance abusers out of prison and treat them in outpatient programs cost $14,000 a year, could the state could save $70 million — and turn more offenders into productive citizens in the bargain?

Those numbers are purely illustrative. But they provide an idea of the kind of economic thinking Virginia needs to apply to its corrections system.

Virginia’s Meth Epidemic Is No Joke

meth_epidemic

Imbibing crystal meth. Image credit: KPBS.org

by James A. Bacon

My son, now in college, has a running joke when his mom and I call to see what he’s been up to. Not much, he deadpans, except for cooking up some crystal meth. An amusing gag for an affluent suburban family where no one imbibes anything stronger than a cabernet sauvignon. But not so funny in Southwest Virginia, ground zero for Virginia’s methamphetamine epidemic.

I’ve just finished reading August Wallmeyer’s book, “The Extremes of Virginia,” which describes the social and economic challenges of Virginia’s poorest rural regions. Much of the material is familiar to regular readers of Bacon’s Rebellion, but I found his discourse on Virginia’s meth epidemic to be particularly helpful in understanding a region where I spent several years as a young journalist but have not often visited since then.

Fatal drug overdoses occur everywhere in Virginia but have spiked in the rapidly decaying coal-mining region of Southwest Virginia, the Eastern Shore and a slew of counties on Northern Virginia’s exurban fringe. In the far Southwest, meth production has risen much like illegal distilleries did during Prohibition, as a cottage industry. In 2009, writes Wallmeyer, “meth production went mainstream and big time, when the ‘shake and bake’ method was brought to Virginia, courtesy of a waitress who had moved from Indiana.”

Knowledge of how to cook meth passes from word to mouth. “A guy in Tennessee teaches someone in Bristol, who teaches someone in Abingdon, who teaches someone in Marion, and so forth,” he says. Because the drug can be concocted from legally obtained materials found in cold medications, batteries and household products, anyone can make it. The number of known meth labs in Virginia has increased from 28 in 2009 to more than 400 in 2014.

The drug produces a euphoric “high” but destroys dopamine receptors in the brain, diminishing all sensations of pleasure. Seeking to retain the high, meth addicts increase consumption, which is not hard to do because meth is a relatively inexpensive drug. Recovery and rehabilitation is extremely difficult because it takes as long as 18 months for the body to repair its dopamine receptors — far longer than an addict’s typical stint in jail or time spent in a 6- to 12-week rehab program. The meth culture is so deeply ingrained now that someone coming out of jail or rehab returns home only to find himself surrounded by other meth users and producers — mirroring the drug problem that has long plagued inner cities.

Widespread drug use creates social problems that magnify the social and economic problems of Southwest Virginia, where the coal economy has collapsed and there is no other industry (other than meth production) moving in to replace it. With increasing regularity, notes Wallmeyer, job seekers are failing drug tests. “There are reports of 50 percent failure rates for people taking job-related drug tests in Southwest Virginia.” That’s devastating to anyone trying to recruit industry to the area. When a region can’t sell the education and skills of its workforce, which are severely lagging in Southwest Virginia, all it has to sell is its work ethic. But if half the workers are drug addicts, economic developers can’t even sell that. In a vicious cycle, the lack of job opportunities creates a pessimism and despair that makes it easier to fall prey to drug abuse.

What can be done? Wallmeyer’s account doesn’t offer much grounds for optimism. But he does present one concrete idea from Jason Robinson, a 20-year state police veteran working in the Southwest Virginia drug task force, and that is to go after the smurfs. In meth parlance, smurfs are the buyers who round up the ingredients that go into meth, the most critical of which is pseudoephedrine, which appears in cold medicines such as Tylenol, Sudafed, Claritin and Allegra. Robinson advocates creating a meth offender registry of anyone convicted of meth-related crimes to prevent smurfs from purchasing meth ingredients.

“We have a prescription monitoring database, but physicians aren’t required to use it,” he tells Wallmeyer. “Lots do, but not all. We have all this technology, but don’t take advantage of it.”

The state also needs to address the mismatch between drug rehabilitation programs, geared for 6- to 12-week treatments, and the long-term nature of meth addiction. Writes Wallmeyer: “Virginia needs to decide either to provide longer-term drug rehabilitation facilities, or to accept the 93 percent recidivism rate, with its attendant consequences and public costs.”

Bacon’s bottom line: One aspect of the meth addiction that I wished Wallmeyer had explored was the impact of substance abuse on the family and child rearing. I would imagine that meth addicts do not make good spouses and good parents, and I would hypothesize that the meth epidemic is ravaging already-fragile households, creating abysmal environments for children who, in addition to coping with material poverty, must survive absentee parents, domestic violence, child neglect and a panoply of problems that lead to poor academic achievement, a propensity for dropping out of school and general failure as an adult. Drugs, joblessness and social dysfunction make a destructive combination.

Virginia’s Political Class as Criminal Class

morris

Morris

Del. Richard L. Morris, R-Suffolk, has been charged with 14 counts of violence against members of his household, including offenses of cruelty and injuries toward a minor, as well as assault and battery against a female relative, reports the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Three of the charges stemmed from allegations that Morris had physically assaulted a boy relative Sept. 16, causing “injuries consistent with excessive physical discipline.” Suffolk police made contact with the boy, writes the T-D, after receiving a complaint from Child Protective Services. Additional charges arose from an alleged assault last year on an adult woman in the Morris household. The alleged victims were not identified by name or relation.

Morris is married and has nine children. Ironically, according to Morris’s website biography, he is treasurer and finance director of the Southeastern Hampton Roads CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate), “a group of volunteers that represent abused and neglected children in court and advocates for their needs.”

I’m guessing these charges will make it hard for Morris to run on a family values platform.

— JAB