Commonwealth’s Attorney-elect Parisa Dehghani-Tafti has announced plans to visit the correctional facilities to which she and her assistant prosecutors will be sending guilty defendants.
Tafti, who will take over at the top prosecutor for Arlington and Falls Church on Jan. 1, says it’s important for prosecutors to understand the correctional end of the criminal justice system to ensure “a just punishment for defendants.”
Tafti and her staff will, over the next year, “complete visits to their local prison, jail and juvenile facilities, and implement ongoing requirements for staff,” according to a press release. Nearly 40 prosecutors across the country have committed to similar visits.
The future of Arlington’s juvenile detention center is currently up for discussion. Tafti, meanwhile, last week announced the appointment of her chief deputy, a respected veteran of the Commonwealth’s Attorney office.
More on the correctional visits, from the press release:
Today Parisa Dehghani-Tafti joined 38 elected prosecutors from across the country and committed to personally visit the correctional facilities in which individuals prosecuted by their office are placed. Recognizing that “it is vital for prosecutors to understand the true impact of their decisions and to see firsthand the jails, prisons and juvenile facilities in their jurisdiction,” these elected leaders also committed to implementing requirements for all prosecutors in their offices to visit these facilities and to incorporate this concept into ongoing job expectations.
Parisa Dehghani-Tafti, Commonwealth’s Attorney Elect for Arlington County and the City of Falls Church, said, “A prosecutor’s job is to hold in her mind and weigh in practice the safety of the community, the needs of victims, and a just punishment for defendants. How can we achieve that balance unless we see and understand for ourselves the outcomes of our decisions?”
Despite the fact that prosecutors have immense influence over who becomes incarcerated and for how long, many have never set foot inside a prison, jail or juvenile correctional facility. As more prosecutors implement reforms to shrink the footprint of the justice system, it is critical to develop a deep understanding of correctional facilities – including an understanding of how isolated, dehumanizing and unsafe conditions can impact an individual’s rehabilitation efforts, and in turn the safety of the communities to which they return.
“Prosecutors control the front door of the justice system through their charging decisions — and so much that follows in the lives of individuals in their community when that door is opened,” said Miriam Krinsky, Executive Director of Fair and Just Prosecution. “As such, they have an obligation to see and understand the conditions in the jails and prisons where their advocacy sends people, as well as the impact of those decisions on the individuals incarcerated within their walls, their families and the broader community. Today’s pledge, joined in by a wide swath of prosecutors from around the country, seeks to embed in the culture of DAs’ offices the recognition that decisions to incarcerate someone should never be taken lightly. We hope that by bringing prosecutors closer to those impacted by their actions, they will have a new perspective as they weigh the decision to incarcerate against other options that will keep individuals in community settings.”
The pledge will be implemented by Ms. Tafti’s Office over the coming year, during which time she, as well as all prosecutors in her office, will complete visits to their local prison, jail and juvenile facilities, and implement ongoing requirements for staff. This is a build out of the initiative launched by FAMM as part of their #VisitAPrison challenge, an effort to encourage elected policy leaders throughout all levels of government to personally visit correctional facilities.
Read the full pledge statement here and see below for a full list of pledge participants.
(Updated at 12:30 p.m.) Del. Patrick Hope (D) has introduced a bill to the Virginia General Assembly that would eliminate the 35 percent commission the state charges on all phone calls made by prison inmates.
The proposed bill — which is now in committee for consideration and must pass there before going before the full House of Delegates — would amend an existing bill by adding a sentence stating no state agency will receive such commission payments.
The commission comes from charges paid by inmates and recipients of calls made from prison. It generates approximately $2.6 million a year, Hope said. Those funds go directly into the Virginia’s general fund.
“I’ve introduced a similar bill for the last four or five years, each time only to see it pass committee and die in appropriations due to lack of funding,” he said in an email. “So we agree on the policy but just not how to pay for it.”
Hope justified his support of this bill by explaining that inmates staying in touch with their families while incarcerated improves the situation for all parties involved.
“The added cost from this commission makes it very difficult for those incarcerated to stay connected with family,” he said. “Studies show the importance of maintaining frequent communication between the incarcerated and their family members, particularly related to recidivism rates, their own conduct in prison, and the overall well-being of families, especially those with young children.”
He has also testified in front of the Federal Communications Commission on this issue in the past. The agency recently acted to lower call costs and indicated support for eliminating commissions on those calls.
Phone service in state prisons in Virginia is provided by GTL, a Reston-based company that bills itself as the “corrections innovation leader.” According to the website prisonphonejustice.org, the rate for a 15 minute call from an inmate was as high as $6 in 2014. The website refers to the commission paid by GTL to the Commonwealth as a “kickback.”
For Hope, the issue is a humanitarian one.
“It is my continued belief that the correct policy in Virginia should be to make the costs of telephone communication between inmates and family as inexpensive as possible,” he said. “We want to encourage greater communication, and Virginia should not view this part of our prison system as a cost center to fund other parts of the budget.”
Virginia’s 2016 General Assembly legislative session is scheduled last for 60 days, beginning on Jan. 13 and ending on March 12.
Young Republicans to Rally Against Sanders — The Arlington Falls Church Young Republicans will “welcome” Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders to Ballston tonight with a “rally for limited government and free market ideals.” The rally will be held outside the National Rural Electrical Cooperative Association, where Sanders will be speaking. [Facebook]
Tree Down on Custis Trail — A tree is down across the Custis Trail near Cherrydale and the ponds, cyclists report. The tree came down following last night’s heavy rains. [BikeArlington Forum, Twitter]
Head of Ex-Offender Group Stepping Down — Gail Arnall, the head of Arlington-based Offender Aid Restoration, is leaving the group, but staying involved as a consultant. OAR helps ex-offenders readjust to life outside of prison. The group notes that it costs only $650 for them to help ex-cons re-integrate into society, while re-incarcerating them would cost $27,000 per year. [Washington Post]
New Clarendon Office Tenant — HDR Architecture has signed a 30,000 square foot lease for the recently-built office building at 3001 Washington Blvd in Clarendon. “Consolidating two existing regional offices into the new Clarendon facility, HDR will now be able to tap into the highly educated population for which Arlington County is well-reputed as well as avail itself of the well-situated project easily accessible via public transportation and multiple roadways and airports,” building owner Penzance said in a press release.
Thousands Apply to Live in New Affordable Building — Since it started accepting applications on Aug. 27, the new 122-unit Arlington Mill Residences affordable apartment complex has received applications from more than 3,600 people. Nonprofit developer Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing is expected to hold a lottery later this week to determine which of the qualified applicants will get an apartment. [Washington Post]
New Randolph Elementary Track — A dedication ceremony was held on Friday for a new track at Randolph Elementary School. The track was built with $40,436 raised by the Randolph PTA and Randolph Principal Renee Bostick. As part of Friday’s event, the Wakefield High School marching band led students, school staff and parents on a inaugural lap around the track. [Arlington Public Schools]
Lawmakers Laud Progress on Solitary Confinement — Local Democratic state lawmakers Patrick Hope and Adam Ebbin say Virginia has been making progress in reducing the number of prisoners held in solitary confinement. While the state is “off to a good start,” Hope and Ebbin say more work must be done to provide mental health services to prisoners to ensure they don’t wind up back in solitary. [Washington Post]
Weekend High School Football — Wakefield High School opened its football season with a win against Marshall. The team was winless last year. Meanwhile, Washington-Lee defeated McLean and Bishop O’Connell defeated Bishop Ireton. Yorktown snapped its 28-game regular season winning streak with a loss to Langley. [Sun Gazette]
Flickr pool photo by J Sonder
Circuit Court Judge Louise M. DiMatteo imposed the jury’s sentencing for 54-year-old Rodolfo Hernandez-Suazo — which included 50 years for rape, 25 years for abduction with intent to defile and 5 years for incest — but ordered that the sentences run concurrently.
Hernandez-Suazo lured his then 22-year-old daughter to a south Arlington hotel room last year, claiming he was going to complete some maintenance work there. Once both were at the hotel, Hernandez-Suazo forced sex on his daughter.
Prosecutors say Hernandez-Suazo then told the daughter to take a shower, but she did not end up doing so. As a result, after she reported the crime to police several hours later, investigators from the Arlington County Police Department Special Victims Unit were able to retrieve DNA evidence from her.
Hernandez-Suazo had been estranged from his daughter since leaving El Salvador about 20 years ago. They were reunited in 2009, when the daughter came to the United States to live with her mother, but she broke off contact after Hernandez-Suazo touched her inappropriately. He then re-initiated contact last year, leading to the incident in the hotel room.
“The victim held the understandable but misguided belief that she and the defendant could at last have a normal father-daughter relationship. Unfortunately he turned out to be a predator, not a parent,” said Assistant Commonwealth Attorney Lisa Tingle. “Her courage in coming forward should give others similar strength knowing that our community treats these offenses with the utmost seriousness.”
Independent’s Day is a weekly opinion column by published on Wednesdays. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.
“Torture is always wrong.” That’s not just a bumper sticker sitting on my desk; it’s also a quote from Rev. Richard Killmer, Executive Director of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT).
On December 3rd of last year, less than a month after the election, I had two options for continued civic participation: attend the Realize Rosslyn Kickoff Event or the Program on Virginia’s Use of Solitary Confinement. I chose the latter. The Program on Virginia’s Use of Solitary Confinement was held at Arlington Central Library and hosted by NRCAT, Social Action Linking Together (SALT), and Amnesty International (Arlington Chapter). Each speaker highlighted a reality that can be lost on the majority of us who have never had the experience: extensive, unlimited, solitary confinement is a violation of the 8th Amendment’s protection from cruel and unusual punishments.
In August of 1998, in Wise County Virginia, the Red Onion State Prison opened as a security level “S.” Its Virginia location was likely the reason for the presence of State Delegate Patrick Hope (D-Arlington) at the meeting I attended. According to Red Onion’s website, their average population is 799 prisoners but a Washington Post article reported 505 of 745 inmates were held in solitary confinement as of last October. I have no way of knowing whether two-thirds of inmates housed by Red Onion “deserve” lonely lockdown for 23 hours per day. The prisoners were accused of crimes and sentenced by our criminal courts after being afforded all of the normal rights we associate with our justice system. What the meeting I attended highlighted however, was to the extent that they were being punished versus being rehabilitated.
The mission of the Virginia Department of Corrections is to enhance public safety by providing effective programs, re-entry services, and supervision of sentenced offenders in a humane, cost efficient manner, consistent with sound correctional principles and constitutional standards. Accomplishing any part of that mission is impossible if the 8th Amendment to our United States Constitution is not being upheld.
A former CIA officer who lives in Arlington has pleaded guilty to revealing the name of a covert CIA officer to a journalist.
John Kiriakou, 48, agreed to a 30 month prison sentence for disclosing the covert officer’s name. The crime was detailed in a statement of facts entered in the case.
From a U.S. Department of Justice press release:
Former CIA officer John Kiriakou, 48, of Arlington, Va., pleaded guilty today to disclosing to a journalist the name of a covert CIA officer and also admitted to disclosing information revealing the role of another CIA employee in classified activities.
Neil H. MacBride, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, and James W. McJunkin, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, made the announcement after the plea was accepted by U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema.
Kiriakou pleaded guilty today to one count of intentionally disclosing information identifying a covert agent. As part of the plea agreement, the United States and Kiriakou agree that a sentence of 30 months in prison is the appropriate disposition of this case. Sentencing has been scheduled for Jan. 25, 2013.
“The government has a vital interest in protecting the identities of those involved in covert operations,” said U.S. Attorney MacBride. “Leaks of highly sensitive, closely held and classified information compromise national security and can put individual lives in danger.”
“Disclosing classified information, including the names of CIA officers, to unauthorized individuals is a clear violation of the law,” said Assistant Director in Charge McJunkin. “Today’s plea would not be possible without the hard work of the prosecutors and FBI Special Agents and analysts who brought this case to justice, and who will continue to pursue those who ignore their obligations to protect national security secrets.”
According to court records, the case is a result of an investigation triggered by a classified filing in January 2009 by defense counsel for high-value detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. This filing contained classified information the defense had not been given through official government channels, including photographs of certain government employees and contractors. The investigation revealed that on multiple occasions one of the journalists to whom Kiriakou illegally disclosed classified information, in turn, disclosed that information to a defense team investigator. This information was reflected in the classified defense filing and enabled the defense team to take or obtain surveillance photographs of government personnel. The government has made no allegations of criminal activity by any members of the defense team for the detainees.
Kiriakou was a CIA intelligence officer between 1990 and 2004, serving at headquarters and in various classified overseas assignments. Upon joining the CIA in 1990 and on multiple occasions in following years, Kiriakou signed secrecy and non-disclosure agreements not to disclose classified information to unauthorized individuals. In a statement of facts filed with his plea agreement, Kiriakou admitted that he made illegal disclosures about two CIA employees and their involvement in classified operations to two journalists (referenced as “Journalist A” and “Journalist B” in court records) on multiple occasions between 2007 and 2009.
Kiriakou admitted that, through a series of emails with Journalist A, he disclosed the full name of a CIA officer (referred to as “Officer A” in court records) whose association with the CIA had been classified for more than two decades. In addition to identifying the officer for the journalist, Kiriakou also provided information that helped the journalist link the officer to a particular classified operation.
In addition, Kiriakou admitted that he disclosed to Journalists A and B the name and contact information of a CIA analyst, identified in court records as “Officer B,” along with his association with an operation to capture terrorism subject Abu Zubaydah in 2002. Kiriakou knew that the association of Officer B with the Abu Zubaydah operation was classified. Based in part on this information, Journalist B subsequently published a June 2008 front-page story in The New York Times disclosing Officer B’s alleged role in the Abu Zubaydah operation.
Without Kiriakou’s knowledge, Journalist A passed the information he obtained from Kiriakou to an investigator assisting in the defense of high-value detainees at Guantanamo Bay.
Kiriakou also admitted that he lied to the CIA regarding the existence and use of a classified technique, referred to as a “magic box,” while seeking permission from the CIA’s Publications Review Board to include the classified technique in a book.
This case was investigated by the FBI’s Washington Field Office, with assistance from the CIA and the Air Force Office of Special Investigations. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Iris Lan of the Southern District of New York, Mark E. Schneider and Ryan Fayhee of the Northern District of Illinois, and W. Neil Hammerstrom Jr. of the Eastern District of Virginia are prosecuting the case on behalf of the United States.
Nonprofits Ask for Funds at Budget Hearing — A public hearing on the county’s proposed tax rate changes is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. tonight. Meanwhile, Tuesday’s budget hearing was largely dominated by the pleas of nonprofits — those that help the homeless, provide affordable housing, work for the rights of immigrants, etc. — for full funding in FY 2013. In one particularly poignant moment, the executive director of the Arlington Street Peoples’ Assistance Network told County Board members that a homeless man who was found dead on Monday was an A-SPAN client and an Arlington native. [Sun Gazette, Patch]
Eventide Creates Cocktail for Cherry Blossom Fest — Eventide Restaurant (3165 Wilson Blvd) has created a specialty cocktail in honor of the Cherry Blossom Festival. Bar manager Tim Irwin even created a video to show budding mixologists how to make his creation — the “Kyoto Cocktail” — which is made with Bison Grass Vodka, Ginger Liqueur, Vanilla Syrup and Fresh Grapefruit Juice. [YouTube]
Lawmakers Ask for Solitary Confinement Probe — Del. Patrick Hope and Sen. Adam Ebbin of Arlington have joined Del. Charniele Herring of Alexandria in writing a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice, asking the federal government to investigate the alleged overuse of solitary confinement in Virginia. The Democratic state lawmakers say solitary confinement is in some cases being used as “a form of psychological torture.” [Washington Post]
New CFO for Artisphere — Artisphere has hired a new Chief Financial Officer. The new CFO will “manage the complexity of financial operations” at the Rosslyn arts venue. [Arlington Mercury]
Chopper Called in for Suspect Search — The U.S. Park Police Eagle 2 helicopter hovered over the Claremont neighborhood — near Wakefield High School — for about half an hour last night while assisting Arlington County Police in a search for several armed robbery suspects. The chopper assisted police and K-9 units on the ground in the search for the suspects in a armed robbery on the 1000 block of S. Frederick Street, in the Columbia Forest neighborhood, according to ACPD spokesman Dustin Sternbeck. Police eventually arrested three men in connection with the crime, according to police radio traffic.
Board to Consider ‘Pipestem’ Lot — The County Board is expected to decide this weekend on a controversial development proposal in the Leeway Overlee neighborhood. A developer wants to build a large new home on a parcel of land set back from the street and only connected to the street via only a thin driveway strip known as a “pipestem.” Neighbors have been fighting the plan, but to some degree state law — which emphasizes the rights of property owners — prevents the Board from completely blocking development on the lot. [Sun Gazette]
Pregnant Inmate Shackling Bill Fails Again — Del. Patrick Hope tried again this year to pass legislation restricting the use of shackles on inmates while they’re giving birth. A House of Delegates subcommittee tabled the bill on Thursday, however, prompting Hope to pledge to introduce the bill again next year. Arlington County Sheriff Beth Arthur presented an alternative viewpoint when she told a reporter that legislation is not the proper way to deal with the issue — state regulatory changes are. [Associated Press]
Venus Stereos Closes — Venus Stereos, a quirky electronics/soccer jersey/music store at the corner of Columbia Pike and S. Walter Reed Drive, has closed. A sign in the window say the storefront, directly adjacent to the Arlington Cinema Drafthouse, is available for lease. [Pike Spotter]
The National Religious Campaign Against Torture is pressing for the ban after Arlington’s Del. Patrick Hope succeeded in getting the state Department of Corrections to codify its pre-existing prohibition on the shackling of female inmates during and immediately after labor. The newly-implemented policy only applies to state prisons, however, not to local and regional correctional facilities.
“As people of faith, the members of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture recognize that restricting women prisoners during childbirth strips away the dignity from the sacred moment of a new life entering the world, desecrates the sanctity of both birth and life, and endangers the health and well-being of both mother and child,” the group said in a statement. “The cruel and inhumane practice of shackling in Virginia is a problem beyond the jurisdiction of the [Department of Corrections]. Virginia should join the 13 states that have enacted legislation to prohibit this barbaric practice. “
Hope wants to do just that.
“Getting the Department of Corrections leading the way is a great thing,” he said. “They’re making [the policy] department wide… They’re sending a message that, I hope, the local and regional jails will mirror.”
Hope says that he will now ask local and regional facilities to change their policies internally, before pressing for legislation next year. Hope tried to sponsor an anti-shackling bill this year, but it failed to get out of a House of Delegates committee.
The Arlington County Sheriff’s Department, which runs the county jail, says it does not shackle pregnant inmates during labor, and only handcuffs one hand to the rail of the hospital bed during postpartum recovery, according to a recent article by The Crime Report. An inmate who gave birth 11 years ago, however, told the publication that she was shackled during the entire 12-hour delivery.
“Virginia cannot declare a victory in putting an end to the appalling practice of shackling of women inmates during childbirth until the Virginia General Assembly passes a law prohibiting it in all jails and prisons, at all levels, across the state,” the National Religious Campaign Against Torture said.
Hope introduced a bill earlier this year to ban the practice. The bill was defeated but supporters were able to pressure the department to change its internal policies without the need for legislation.
Here’s the press release from Hope’s office announcing the planned change in policy.
The Virginia Department of Corrections is planning to implement regulations to prohibit the shackling of pregnant inmates in Virginia’s prisons. The regulation is modeled after legislation (HB 1488) introduced by Delegate Patrick A. Hope (D-Arlington) in the 2011 legislative session and supported by the following organizations: the American Medical Association, American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the Virginia Chapter of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Legal Aid Justice Center, ACLU of Virginia, NARAL Pro-Choice-Virginia, Planned Parenthood-Virginia, VA CURE, and the National Religious Campaign Against Torture.
Specifically, the regulations prohibit the use of restraints on pregnant inmates during labor, delivery, or post-partum recovery. Front-end handcuffs may be used but only during transport. Additional restraints may be used if a determination is made that the inmate poses a danger to herself or others. The regulations take the additional step in requiring documentation when additional restraints are used.
Delegate Hope worked with Virginia Department of Corrections Director, Harold Clarke, for several months on this in-depth policy and offered high praise saying, “Director Clarke recognized the importance of spelling out a policy that protects the health of the mother and her unborn child. He deserves a lot of credit for taking this significant, bold step.” Delegate Hope continued, “This policy sets the tone for other correctional facilities such as our county and regional jails to follow suit. I hope they will also spell out similar regulations.” The Department of Corrections only has jurisdiction over Virginia’s prisons.
With this regulation, Virginia’s prison system joins ten other states — California, Colorado, Illinois, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, New York, Texas, Vermont, Washington, and West Virginia – who have banned the practice. The Federal Bureau of Prisons and the U.S. Marshals Service also have policies that block the shackling of inmates during childbirth.
Hope is running for reelection to the House of Delegates this year. He faces Independent Green Party candidate Jennifer Stanley.