There’s been a lot of talk about criminal justice reform on the national level as 2020 presidential campaigning is underway, but this has also been a long-running issue right here in the Valley.

Harrisonburg and Rockingham County plan to post a job advertisement next month for the area’s first community justice planner, according to an article in Saturday’s edition of the Daily News-Record. The person who fills this position 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, according to the article.

This has been a conversation for a while — mostly spearheaded by groups like Faith in Action and the Northeast Neighborhood Association — and came in response to growing incarceration numbers for our area.

It doesn’t have unified support, one of the reasons being potential cost. That is a fair concern and one worth exploring, as cost-efficiency for taxpayers should always be a priority. The city and county already voted to include $40,000 each in the 2019-20 fiscal-year budgets, which will go toward salary, benefits and supplies, according to the article.

We have an issue with high levels of incarceration, and that can also be costly. If there are reasonable changes we can make or solutions we can try, then we should. It may not work or solve everything, but that isn’t an excuse for inaction. Rockingham County Administrator Stephen King said the position will be evaluated in three years to see if progress has been made.

In those three years, we may have a real chance to invest in making changes for the betterment of our local and even statewide criminal justice system, the wallets of our taxpayers and those criminals who do wish to re-enter society and be productive members of the community. And if we don’t, at least we will know that we didn’t sit back and do nothing and hopefully will have learned how to proceed in a different way.

“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,” Faith in Action President Jennifer Davis Sensenig said.

Criminal justice reform is becoming more and more politicized every day with every passing tweet and debate from candidates and sitting political figures, but it’s more than just a political talking point for the Left or Right. It’s a real problem and that likely has several causes and potential solutions — but we won’t be able to figure out any of them if we don’t start somewhere.

(7) comments

mattnamyj

We don't need to "start somewhere", we already have a system in place. Don't commit a crime and we won't send you to jail. Nothing "balanced" about this editorial in the least, just the opposite. The writer is completely left wing radical and they only mention right & left to appear to be in the middle. Nice try!!!

Donald

At some point the algorithm used to generate these editorials needs to be tweeked to recognize that he world did not begin yesterday and things have indeed been tired and studies have been made on all sorts of stuff. Oh well.



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 progressive dysphoria.

newshound

Correct on all counts ... the skin color and ethnicity of the perpetrators of crime will never matter to me and Should be irrelevant when "dues are to be paid" from criminal activity.

prodigalson

Spot on Donald.

newshound

Where are the ideas and plans to "reduce incarceration rates" in the area? How does this person magically reduce crime? The problem is the tax-paying citizens have been provided no details and that is not good business sense. My guess is this fantasy will feature lessening penalties and adding worthless "Behavioral modification" programs. Spending time in the "Gray Bar" Motel should be enough to jolt one to reflect on his/her misdeeds.

This idea is yet another threat to safety in society. There are already too many bleeding heart liberal judges and politicians in place making a mockery of justice.

prodigalson

Amen Newshound. The goal of the people pushing this nonsense is not to reduce crime, it is to reduce the penalties for crime. The net effect will be that crime will increase, not decrease.

sbsheridan

Thank you for this thoughtful, balanced editorial.

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