While the local jail population continues to grow, the record-keeping systems used by law enforcement, the courts and other pieces of the local criminal justice system remain stuck in the past, complicating efforts to understand what’s driving that population growth or to begin addressing it. Within a year, however, new insight into local criminal justice trends could be coming from two different sources.
When Eric English was kid, he identified two roles he said he would never take on: becoming a police officer and officiating basketball games. After 29 years of police work — including his last five months as chief of the Harrisonburg Police Department — and 15 years of experience refereeing youth basketball games, that declaration from his younger self makes him chuckle.
The courtroom was chilly as participants in the afternoon hearing on a recent Thursday trickled in. Some were alone, others entered with partners and family members. But this wasn’t like many other court proceedings, marked by tension and conflict.
Ben Cline spent part of December reaching out to his new constituents, starting with the four communities he lost in November as the longtime Republican state delegate from Lexington prepared to go to Congress. But the Washington experience, which officially begins with his swearing in Thursday, will likely get tougher for Cline as he enters the minority party caucus in a divided Congress and amid a government shutdown.
Creating a community justice planner position — a major priority for activists, including the groups Valley Justice Coalition and Faith in Action — won’t happen until July 2019 at the earliest, if it happens at all.
Members of the Community Criminal Justice Board said during Monday’s meeting that they mostly agree with the goals of data analysis but still have to figure out if it warrants adding a new government-funded job.