Opinion — New neighbors for you?

Published 10:29 am Friday, July 1, 2022

Prisons exist for two reasons. First, to punish those who refuse to live by the laws that provide for us to have a civilized society. Second, to protect the lives and well-being of innocent citizens and businesses and their employees. We all hope that during their time in prison they will develop into good citizens.

When I first went to Richmond, there was a wink-wink system of punishment. The General Assembly would pass legislation that appeared to make the public believe that legislators were tough on crime. Judges and juries could give long sentences, then prison guidelines allowed their release after as little as a quarter of their sentence. After George Allen and I came to Richmond in 1994, we changed the law, requiring an inmate to serve the sentence given (with 15% off if no problems while locked up). This reduced crime in Virginia.

When the Democrats regained control of the House and Senate two years ago and with Ralph Northam as governor, they began the process of reversing the success of the last two decades. They lowered the rules. Now the time served needs be only 65% of the sentence given. In the past, counselors worked with those as they neared their release to ensure that they had the skills needed to become an asset to our communities. The new rule has overwhelmed the orderly process for release.

Next Week

The new rules were delayed until this July and coming weeks. There are 4,500 inmates that have not been properly prepared for release who will be released. They will be returning to our communities. Hopefully, they will have reformed, if not, watch out.

It could have been worse. The 2021 law was poorly written. Some murderers and rapists were included in this mass release. As written, if a rapist was charged with breaking into your home in addition to the rape, they would be eligible for early release. Gov. Youngkin proposed blocking those most violent criminals from being included. On the Senate floor, two Democrats agreed that this was dangerous policy, therefore, they voted with all Republicans. This will keep 556 of the worse locked away from your loved ones.

President Biden and Attorney General Garland

Claiming that they support law enforcement, however, their actions speak louder than words. When a would-be assassin was arrested outside the home of a Supreme Court Justice, neither had any public comments to attempt to settle down protesters who were staging protests around their homes. Even though federal laws bar people from trying to intimidate, they took no action to allow the FBI to act. Instead, it appears they were more focused on investigating parents upset with school administrations and school boards.

Richmond, the Mayor, and Counsel

Closer to home, in Richmond. Instead of fighting increasing murder rates in the city by keeping more officers on the street, they are putting handcuffs on police. They are accomplishing this by adding staff, not by adding officers, but by hiring social workers to go into dangerous, potentially deadly situations.

Likewise, they are setting up a review panel made up of citizens who have limited law enforcement knowledge. This review panel will be in a comfortable office and evaluate the actions that an officer had to make. The officers might have had a split second to make a life-or-death decision. The panel will have plenty of time to make their decision.

Mayor Stoney simply does not understand the facts before him. To him everything is about politics. This week, he was critical of the director of health who stated that gun shooting was not in the realm of public health. All of us are concerned about the shootings in our nation, but that is the responsibility of law enforcement, the Department of Justice, and the Department of Juvenile Justice. Currently, pandemics, either COVID-19 or Monkeypox, should be the health department’s highest responsibility. The health department can assist, but that is not what they are trained to do. If they have a role in correcting all societal problems, that should begin at the middle school years.

These are examples of some talking about supporting police and public safety while taking actions that undermine our law enforcement officers as they work to protect our families. Hopefully, these early releases won’t harm our communities.

Frank Ruff Jr. serves as the 15th District senator in Virginia. He can be reached at Sen.Ruff@verizon.net, (434) 374-5129 or P.O. Box 332, Clarksville, VA 23927.