HARRISONBURG — After years of discussion, Harrisonburg and Rockingham County plan to post a job advertisement next month for the area’s first community justice planner.

The planner will be tasked with evaluating the criminal justice system and recommending changes to reduce incarceration rates at the Rockingham County Jail and in the city and county’s portion of Middle River Regional Jail.

Faith in Action and the Northeast Neighborhood Association have pushed for the position for the past two years.

“We are pleased,” said Jennifer Davis Sensenig, lead pastor of the Community Mennonite Church and president of Faith in Action. “We’re so grateful.”

Rockingham County Administrator Stephen King said the idea for a planner started being discussed about five years ago as incarceration numbers at the Rockingham County Jail continued to increase.

At one point, the jail was operating above capacity.

Harrisonburg and Rockingham County bought into the jail in May 2015 to alleviate overcrowding at the 315-bed Rockingham County Jail in downtown Harrisonburg.

King said the position will help to create or adjust programs aimed at keeping people out of jail.

“The ultimate goal is to look for opportunities to reduce the number of people in jail,” he said.

One of the ways, King said, could be to change the jail’s re-entry program, which is designed to prepare inmates to re-enter society.

Faith in Action, which formed about two years ago, started pushing for the position as beds at Middle River began to fill up.

“The opportunity before us is to gather data about who is being incarcerated locally, and for how long, and at what expense to the taxpayers,” Davis Sensenig said.

The position came with mixed reviews.

Rockingham County Sheriff Bryan Hutcheson, who oversees the jail, argued that a full-time position wasn’t needed and a consultant could evaluate the jail and offer solutions at a much cheaper price.

However, the city and county voted to include $40,000 each in the 2019-20 fiscal-year budget. The $80,000 per year is slated to pay the salary, benefits and supplies for the position.

King said the position will be evaluated in three years to see if progress has been made.

Contact Pete DeLea at 574-6267 or pdelea@dnronline.com. Follow Pete on Twitter @pdeleaDNR

(8) comments

BoDuke319

I guess EMU has more influence in this town than they claim. They just forced a municipality to support a job that they invented for a degree they invented.

prodigalson

I agree Bo. It's really sad to see.

sbsheridan

Two primary objectives of using criminal justice planners in a community are to (1) take a step back, analyze data, and identify trends in criminal activity and criminal justice that might lower crime and incarceration rates if addressed, and (2) assess the effectiveness of actions taken to punish and rehabilitate criminals so that recidivism rates trend lower. Incarceration rates in this area have risen, in part, as the result of "we've always done it this way" and "if the hammer doesn't work, get a bigger hammer" type of thinking. Before condemning the outcomes of hiring a criminal justice planner based on perceptions and prejudice, you might want to investigate the results attributed to criminal justice planners now working in many other Virginia counties and numerous TED talks available on this topic. You might also want to see what is accomplished in Harrisonburg and Rockingham once a community justice coordinator is hired. Two or three cases a year in which re-incarceration is avoided more than make up for the cost of this position.

prodigalson

M S, The way to reduce crime is to leave dangerous criminals in prison where they belong. Hiring a "community justice planner" will do nothing more but introduce a new level of bureaucracy to the system, and throw sand in the gears of justice. The result will be more dangerous criminals released onto the streets, and more crime. With respect to the increased crime rates in and around the city of Harrisonburg, the reason for this is obvious. The city political climate has taken a significant left turn in recent years, and criminals (many of them from outside the area) are being invited into the area.

Donald

Correction: dysphoria

weld

Hiring a Community Justice Planner is a waste of money. Keep the libs. happy by just putting white people in jail.

Donald

It is indeed another picking of the taxpayer’s pocket for yet another worthless bureaucratic position that will contribute nothing to the well-being of the residents of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County.

So, what can we expect? Well, we can be quite sure that this planner will have – long before the 3 year evaluation period is up – built a supportive bureaucracy around his or her position. We know she will be told by progressive secular organizations and progressive faux faith organizations hiding behind a veil of religiosity what exactly she is to find and what she is to recommend. We know that the 80,000 dollars pocketed is only the first drop in the bucket to be followed by a variety of worthless and costly ‘recommended’ programs. Incarceration rates will certainly be reduced by reducing felony charges to misdemeanors, ignoring some crime, and the use of ‘alternative’ sentencing, none of which will make the citizenry safer – indeed if past is prologue it will make the citizenry less safe. The use of the phrase, “gather data about who is being incarcerated locally”, is progressive code for seeking to make “Disproportional Impact” claims and then demand special race/ethnicity based programs to rectify the ‘systemic racism’ they will claim to have found. What is not a concern, though it is used for effect, is incarceration as” an expense to the taxpayers”. And Harrisonburg will continue its descent into a self-induced disphoria.

prodigalson

Brilliant post Donald. I'm sure the "Community Justice Planner" position will be filled by one of the "graduates" from EMU's "Peace and Conflict Resolution" program, and you're right, whoever fills the position (I'm guessing Harvey) will build a huge liberal bureaucracy around themselves so that the position can never, ever be eliminated. The result will be more crime, more dangerous criminals released from jail, and a more dangerous society. Liberals are parasites, pure and simple.

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