It’s easy to walk past the Arlington County Detention Facility without realizing the high-rise with reflective windows is a jail.
Nestled between office buildings and apartment towers, the 12-story building at 1435 N. Courthouse Road, just a block from the Courthouse Metro station, houses nearly 500 male and female inmates.
On a recent tour of the facility, assistant operations director Capt. Jimmie Barrett Jr. said the jail offers more than 100 therapeutic and recreational programs to minimize disruptions and reinforce positive behavior.
“This is what jail is,” he said as he walked ARLnow through quiet cell blocks. “It’s not a lot of loud screaming or yelling. It’s about creating some structure to help people go on with life.”
Sessions on addiction, foreign languages and money management are among the program offerings, and quilting is one of the most popular activities for men and women alike. Started about two years ago by a jail employee who quilts in her free time, the sessions are now held three times per week.
“It started as a small group of women and expanded. Now the men are doing it, too,” Barrett said.
The inmates make baby blanket-sized quilts on the jail’s sewing machines, using donated materials. Many of the quilts are given to the local nonprofit Borromeo Housing Inc., which aids homeless young mothers and their children.
“It’s like a photograph. It’s something you can keep forever,” one female inmate said about the quilts she made. “It’s homemade, and I’m really sentimental.”
The inmate, a 22-year-old Arlington native charged with credit card fraud, said she planned on continuing to quilt once she leaves her current cell block of 41 women.
As of Friday, the jail built in 1994 housed 410 men and 58 women, for a total of 468 people. Inmates include people awaiting trial, awaiting sentencing and those sentenced to 12 months or less.
“I almost asked for a couple of extra days I haven’t been able to catch up on my reading like that in YEARS!!” an apparent ex-inmate wrote in October.
The jail includes a full legal library, with rows of hardcover tomes. Inmates increasingly prefer to use the online tool LexisNexis to learn about laws and their rights, corrections analyst Cristen Bowers said. Librarians there try to get inmates the reading material they want.
“If they request a book and we don’t have it, we’ll get it from another library,” Bowers said.
Inmates stay in single- or double-occupancy cells with an early wakeup time. Breakfast is served about 5:30 a.m., and then guards inspect inmates’ cells about 7:30 a.m. Lunch is served about 11 a.m., and guards conduct surveillance walk-throughs every 30 minutes. Dinner is served about 4:30 p.m., and lights out is at 11:30 p.m.
Inmates are allowed two 20-minute visits twice a week, not including meetings with lawyers.
With the exception of maximum security units on the building’s 11th floor, inmates are allowed to attend programs based on their compliance to jail rules. Inmates who break rules can be placed in solitary cells for “disciplinary segregation,” Barrett said. Those who are a danger to themselves or others can be put into “administrative segregation.” The separations can last as little as an hour or extend for weeks, said Barrett, a 23-year veteran of the facility.
Maximum security units are located on the jail’s 11th floor, where just 18 men were held as of Friday. The inmates there are confined to their cells and served meals through slots in the doors. Whether they must remain on that floor is reassessed weekly, Barrett said.
Officers assigned to booking see a rush of people on Friday nights, Saturday nights and holidays, mostly for public intoxication, they said.
Detainees are escorted into the facility through back doors, some of which are connected to the court next door. Footprints painted on the floor show where they must stand as they wait to be fingerprinted and have their mugshot taken.
Every detainee receives a handful of pamphlets guiding them through everything from how to report sexual misconduct to what personal items they’re allowed to keep, like a wedding band without stones, worn only on the left ring finger.
“Think of it like your first day of college,” Barrett said. “You’re getting oriented.”
Alexandria Murder Suspect in Arlington Jail — Charles Severance, who’s charged in the murders of three Alexandria residents, has been transferred to the Arlington County Detention Facility in Courthouse. The transfer is intended “to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest,” since Severance is charged in the murder of the wife of a former Alexandria sheriff. [Washington Post]
Roadside Sunflowers Chopped Down — A patch of sunflowers planted at the intersection of Lee Highway and North Powhatan Street has been cut down by VDOT after someone complained to say the flowers blocked her view while turning. The resident who has been planting the sunflowers for the past seven years mounted a sign in the flowers’ place saying “hope you are happy!” [Falls Church News-Press]
Bocce Produces Outcry in Reston, Too — Remember the neighborhood kerfuffle over a single proposed bocce court in Bluemont? Well, it turns out Arlington isn’t the only place where people get steamed about the sport. In Reston, residents are complaining about potential traffic, parking woes, drinking and the loss of green space after a bocce court was proposed. [Reston Now]
County Seeking ‘Human Rights Heroes’ — Arlington County is seeking nominees for the 16th annual James B. Hunter Human Rights Awards. The awards are intended to honor residents, community groups, non-profits or businesses that have made significant human rights achievements. [Arlington County]
FBI Looking for Serial Bank Robber — The FBI is seeking information on a serial bank robber who hit a Capital One Bank in District Heights, Md. in May and the Wells Fargo in Courthouse last September. “In both robberies, the unidentified man displayed a note to tellers demanding money and threatening a violent attack against everyone in the bank,” according to the FBI. [Federal Bureau of Investigation]
Tag Readers Brought Arlington $744,000 — The Arlington County Treasurer’s Office was able to bring in $744,000 in unpaid taxes thanks to use of automatic license plate readers. That’s up 54 percent from last year. [InsideNova]
Rape Prevention Certification for Jail — The Arlington County Detention Facility has been recognized as meeting new federal Prison Rape Elimination Act standards. The jail is the first in the D.C. area to receive the certification. “This certification is a significant recognition of what we focus on every day — operating a safe and secure jail for our inmates and staff,” Arlington County Sheriff Beth Arthur said, in a statement. [Arlington County]
Fox 5 has obtained the recording of the ex-Marine’s chilling confession, in which he expresses no remorse for killing two little girls and 20-year-old Navy Petty Officer Amanda Jean Snell.
A judge is scheduled to determine Torrez’s fate — whether to accept a jury’s death sentence recommendation — at a hearing on May 30.
Hot Car Mom Released from Jail — Zoraida Magali Conde Hernandez, who’s accused of fatally locking her 8-month-old son in a hot car earlier this month, was released from jail yesterday afternoon after being granted a $25,000 bond. Police say Conde Hernandez accidentally left the baby in her car for 6 hours while she went to work. NBC4 reports that she works at the Catholic Diocese of Arlington. [NBC Washington]
More Money for Paving in Virginia — More money is available for VDOT’s summer paving effort this year thanks to new transportation taxes. The planned repaving includes 90 lane miles of interstate highways and 79 miles of primary roads. Arlington is one of two Virginia counties that doesn’t rely on VDOT for maintenance of secondary roads. [Sun Gazette]
Library Group to Hold ‘Great Gatsby’ Ball — The group Friends of the Arlington Public Library will be holding a 1920s-themed “Great Gatsby” ball at Artisphere on Sept. 28. The event will raise money for the library’s early literacy initiatives. [Arlington Public Library]
Photo by Katie Pyzyk. Hat tip to Peter Golkin.
Arlington Boy Drowns in Shenandoah — A 3-year-old Arlington boy drowned in a Shenandoah County creek over the weekend. The boy had been seen playing with other children about 200 yards downstream from where his body was found by a search and rescue team. His death has been ruled accidental. [NV Daily]
Jail Hosts Mother’s and Father’s Day Visits — Earlier this month, the Arlington County Detention Facility held a special event for the children of female inmates, in honor of Mother’s Day. Next month, the jail will host a similar event for the children of men for Father’s Day. [Sun Gazette]
Road Closures for Parade Near Shirlington — The westbound lanes of S. Four Mile Run Drive will be closed between Shirlington Road and Walter Reed Drive on Saturday for the Corso de Santa Cruz Parade. The closure is expected to be in place from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. [Arlington County]
Grand Opening for Bluemont Fitness Facility — Though it has been open for several months, Bluemont-based Phoenix Fitness (5130 Wilson Blvd) will celebrate its grand opening on Saturday with free food, classes and giveaways. [Phoenix Fitness]
Flickr pool photo by Alex
Comedian Stephen Colbert devoted part of his Comedy Central show on Monday to a four-star Yelp review of the Arlington County Detention Facility.
Colbert read from the review, which praised the jail for offering juice boxes and a “very clean environment.”
“If you’re going to get arrested, do it in Arlington County,” Colbert said, reading from the review.
“I think Arlington tourism just found its new slogan,” he quipped.
Hat tip to Keith H.
USS Arlington To Be Commissioned — The USS Arlington will be commissioned in Norfolk on Saturday. Fundraising for a 9/11 tribute room on the ship is continuing, as supporters have only raised $362,000 of the hope-for $500,000. [Washington Post, Patch]
Police Seek Wallet Thief — Arlington County Police are looking for a man who stole a victim’s wallet while at a bar/restaurant in Ballston. The man then used the victim’s credit cards at a store on the 200 block of S. Glebe Road. [Arlington County]
Fundraiser for Prisoner Assistance Org — A fundraiser was held Thursday for Offender Aid and Restoration, a group that “works in Arlington, Alexandria and Falls Church with support programs for those in jail and prison, and assistance when they return to life outside a cell.” [Sun Gazette]
Flickr pool photo by BrianMKA
As of 2:30 a.m., 1,734 Dominion customers were without power in Arlington. The outage was said to be centered in the Courthouse and Clarendon area, along Wilson and Clarendon Boulevards.
In addition to restaurants and commercial offices, the outage also hit county government buildings in Courthouse. Some of the county’s internal computer networks were said to have been knocked offline by the outage. Firefighters responded to the county jail after the emergency generator reportedly failed to start, leaving the facility in the dark.
Dominion’s web site estimates that power will be restored no later than 7:00 a.m.
More than 100 demonstrators marched through the busy streets of Virginia Square, Clarendon and Courthouse last night in support of immigrant rights and against deportations.
The protesters, assisted by a police escort, marched from George Mason University’s Arlington campus to the Arlington County jail. Holding signs and chanting slogans in English and Spanish, the protesters made their message loud and clear for scores of bewildered bystanders and outdoor diners in Clarendon.
Once at the jail, a number of speakers addressed the crowd. Most condemned the federal ‘Secure Communities’ immigration enforcement program while praising Arlington for attempting to “opt-out” of the program.
“Arlington was one of the first communities to opt out of Secure Communities,” said Tenants and Workers United Interim Director Jennifer Morley. “When people who live in Arlington heard about it, they spoke out, the organized. Arlington knows that Secure Communities is not the kind of initiative we want in our community.”
“Washington, D.C. is a sanctuary community!” shouted Johnny Barnes, executive director of the ACLU’s National Capital Area chapter, to loud cheers.
A woman identified as “Elizabeth” tearfully spoke about how she was deported before, but made her way back to the area so she could support her young daughter, who has a heart condition.
Also speaking at the rally was Arlington County Police Capt. Jim Wasem, who spoke on behalf of the department. ACPD Chief Doug Scott has previously expressed concern that Secure Communities could dissuade immigrants from cooperating with police investigations.
Protesters will march from George Mason University Founder’s Hall, at 3351 N. Fairfax Drive in Virginia Square, to the Arlington County jail, at 1435 N. Courthouse Road in Courthouse, where they will hold a rally against the federal ‘Secure Communities’ immigration enforcement program.
The march is scheduled to begin at 6:45 p.m. Organizers expect the rally outside the jail to start at 7:15 p.m.
“Speakers at the rally will include representatives from Virginia, Maryland, DC, New York, Illinois, California and other locales affected by the discredited deportation program,” organizers said in a statement.
The march and rally will coincide with the start of the Turning the Tide National Summit, a three-day pro-immigration gathering that’s being held this year at GMU’s Arlington campus.
Secure Communities helps federal authorities enforce immigration laws by checking the fingerprints of those arrested by local law enforcement through a Department of Homeland Security immigration database.
In September the County Board voted unanimously to attempt to withdraw from the program, saying that Secure Communities “will create divisions in our community and promote a cultural fear and distrust of law enforcement.” County officials eventually determined that it was not feasible to withdraw from the program. A coalition that helped organize local opposition to Secure Communities was later given the county’s James B. Hunter Human Rights Award.
Affordable Apartments Get Green Certification — The 36-unit Macedonian apartment complex in Green Valley has become the first EarthCraft-certified new multifamily building in Arlington and the most energy-efficient EarthCraft building in Northern Virginia. The affordable apartments, at 2229 Shirlington Road, received the green building certification thanks to a special central heating and cooling system, foam insulation and other high-efficiency components. The building is a partnership between affordable housing nonprofit AHC Inc. and the Macedonia Baptist Church. [AHC Inc.]
Jail to Host Mother’s Day Event — The Arlington Sheriff’s Office will be hosting its bi-annual Incarcerated Mother’s Holiday Program at the county lockup Monday night, one day after Mother’s Day. From 6:00 to 8:00 p.m., female inmates will get the chance to have a “contact visit” with their children within the jail. The event will feature a card exchange, dinner and bonding time. “The program is designed to strengthen and encourage mothers to have positive relationships with their minor children to help lessen the impact and effects of separation,” the Sheriff’s Office said in a press release.
New Site Fixes and Features — We made some fixes and added some features to the site overnight. Among the changes: the comment problem we described yesterday has been resolved, we’ve added new fields to your user profiles, and the forums are now operational. Note that there are still some bugs to be worked out with the forums and with user profiles, especially for Internet Explorer users. Please let us know what you think of the changes in the comments.
Last month Arlington sent Falls Church a notice that it could owe an additional $2.2 million for use of the Arlington County Detention Facility. At the time, the county said a “clerical error” resulted in Falls Church being undercharged for the housing of prisoners. Falls Church even admitted that it owed the money, according to the Washington Examiner.
Now, the county says “an outside contractor’s software error” resulted in an over-count of Falls Church prisoners. Falls Church only owes Arlington $123,000, the county said in a statement last night.
“Arlington County regrets the error and the difficulties that it posed for the City as it develops its FY 2012 Budget,” Arlington said. “The Arlington County Sheriff’s Department will now report monthly on Falls Church prisoners. The report and applicable prisoner data will be shared with the Falls Church Sheriff for verification.”
The county’s contract for judicial, police and fire department services is up for renewal this year. Arlington says it will renegotiate the contract “to reflect changes in technology, procedures and services that have occurred since 1989, when the City of Falls Church first contracted with Arlington County to provide the City with judicial and public safety services.”
Punxsutawney Phil Doesn’t See His Shadow — Does that mean there will be an early spring in our area? Meteorologists, as usual, are skeptical. [Capital Weather Gang]
Falls Church Admits Debt to Arlington — Falls Church admits that it does, in fact, owe Arlington $2.2 million for shared use of the Arlington County jail. The city did not say how much of the debt it actually plans to pay. [Washington Examiner]
Complaints About Westover Beer Garden Continue — The Westover Market is moving forward with its plan to build a restaurant and bar, despite the fact that people in the neighborhood continue to complain about everything from noise to smoke coming from fire pits in the market’s outdoor beer garden. [TBD]
Arlington Sends Surprise $2.2 Million Bill to Falls Church — Arlington is billing the City of Falls Church an extra $2.2 million for its use of the Arlington County jail, the Falls Church News-Press reported late last night. Falls Church City Manager Wyatt Shields told the paper that Arlington sent the bill after discovering a “clerical error” that resulted in Falls Church being undercharged since 2008. [FCNP]
Lubber Run Renovation in Doubt — Arlington doesn’t have room in its current budget to pay for multi-million dollar renovations to the shuttered Lubber Run Amphitheater, County Manager Barbara Donnellan said at a recent public meeting. However, Donnellan said renovations could, theoretically, become a priority in future budget cycles. [Sun Gazette]
Arlington Fighting to Start School in August — Arlington has been persistently applying for a state waiver to start the school year before Labor Day. Each year the county applies, however, it gets rejected. Now, school officials in Fairfax County and Alexandria are also considering applying for the right to start school before Labor Day. [Washington Examiner]
Reasonably-Priced Buffet Spots Profiled — TBD looks at seven of the most “notable” and/or “dirt-cheap” buffet options in Arlington. [TBD]