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(Updated at 11:30 a.m.) Earlier this month, Virginia House of Delegates 2nd District candidate Kevin Saucedo-Broach dropped out of the race to take care of a family member.

But when he announced this decision, he said a recurring conversation on the campaign trail will stick with him and inform his advocacy going forward. The topic was mental health.

“The more I talked to people across Arlington, the more sure I became that Virginia’s mental health crisis is traumatizing people from all walks of life and that those people were absolutely desperate for our government to do something serious about it,” he said.

These reflections, posted on Twitter, come as Arlington County is trying to fill in gaps in Virginia’s patchwork approach to mental health care — precipitated by the closure of state psychiatric beds during the pandemic — with community-based services.

This week, it celebrated the newly renovated Crisis Intervention Center, where people in a mental health crisis can go to receive services — away from hospitals and law enforcement, who are typically on the front lines of this issue.

Now that Saucedo-Broach is out, Adele McClure, who announced her bid more than a year ago, is running unopposed in the Democratic primary this June. An early opponent, Nicole Merlene, also dropped out.

Then, McClure will run in the November general election. There is no incumbent for this new seat, encompassing Arlingtonā€™s Metro corridors, created through a recent redistricting process.

Saucedo-Broach lamented that some 80,000 Arlingtonians in the 2nd District would no longer have the opportunity to see candidates debate issues like poverty and mental health. He says that speaks poorly of Arlington.

“For a county as vibrant, diverse, and politically active as Arlington, it certainly speaks very poorly of our work as a political and organizing community that so few residents felt it worthwhile to stand for election to a band-new legislative district with an open race,” he said. “Clearly, we have a great deal of work left to do to break down systemic barriers and expand political access in Arlington County.”

McClure acknowledged the news in a post on social media asking for support, as Saucedo-Broach’s name will still appear on the ballot. She has an interactive map for residents who want to see if she could be their next representative.

She, too, says she will be an effective advocate for mental health policies because of her experience on the Arlington Community Services Board. This oversees the continuum of nonprofit- and county-provided services to people with disabilities,Ā  substance use disorders and mental health challenges.

“We need funding to expand community-based services and must recognize that each individual is unique and has different needs — some folks suffer from co-occurring mental health, substance use, and medical treatment needs,” McClure says.

“At a time when demand for behavioral health care treatment is rising, Virginians deserve a system that has ample capacity for pediatric, adult, and elder patients across the continuum of care so that people with mental health and substance treatment needs can receive care with dignity that is free of stigma or shame,” she continues.

McClure has picked up the endorsement of Del. Alfonso Lopez, the Virginia Education Association political action committee representing Virginia teachers, U.S. Rep. Jennifer McClellan, the progressive group New Virginia MajorityĀ and pro-abortion advocacy group Repro Rising.

Meanwhile, longtime state Sen. Barbara Favola is running against lawyer James DeVita to represent the 40th District. On mental health, Favola was chief patron of a bill that passed this session requiring hospitals to provide trauma-informed security.

Tackling the twin epidemics of mental health and substance use inside the jail is top-of-mind for the candidates for Arlington County Sheriff.

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With early and caucus voting underway, some candidates for local office are getting boosts from prominent Arlington Democrats.

Arlington is a Democratic stronghold for state and national politics. On the local level, that ethos has fueled intense focus on who will get the official support of the local party — even for non-partisan positions on the Arlington School Board.

Among sitting County Board members, there is strong support for Acting Sheriff Jose Quiroz, who has received endorsements from outgoing Chair Christian Dorsey, Vice-Chair Libby Garvey and member Matt de Ferranti. Quiroz also has support from State Sen. Barbara Favola and Dels. Alfonso Lopez and Patrick Hope, as well as his predecessor, former sheriff Beth Arthur.

His opponents, retired Deputy Sheriff Wanda Younger and Arlington police officer James Herring, have not published endorsements on their websites.

No other candidate websites list endorsements from Dorsey or outgoing member Katie Cristol, both of whom are stepping down this year. Of the remaining County Board members, they diverged on their support for a Commonwealth’s Attorney. De Ferranti and Karantonis support incumbent Parisa Dehghani-Tafti while Garvey supports challenger Josh Katcher, who worked for Dehghani-Tafti and her predecessor, Theo Stamos.

Dehghani-Tafti’s website lists a slew of endorsements from elected Democrats, including Reps. Don Beyer and Jennifer McClellan, State Sen. Barbara Favola, Dels. Hope and Lopez as well as endorsements from the Washington Post and the Falls Church News-Press. Campaign financing records show she has received donations from political groups that support progressive prosecutors.

Katcher’s supporters including former Arlington School Board member Barbara Kanninen, education activist Symone Walker and the local firefighters union. Campaign materials shared with ARLnow show that Stamos has promoted meet-and-greet opportunities with Katcher, one of which former independent County Board member John Vihstadt hosted.

Campaign financing records show some of Katcher’s biggest recent contributors of $1,000 or more include himself, former School Board member Abby Raphael, retired Deputy Chief of Police Daniel Murray, a former candidate for Stafford County’s treasurer, and longtime local GOP civic figure John Antonelli, who previously donated to Vihstadt and Stamos.

For County Board, stances on housing and development seem to have informed which sitting Board members support them.

De Ferranti endorsed two candidates to join him on the Board: Julius “J.D.” Spain, Sr. and Maureen Coffey, who also picked up an endorsement from Takis Karantonis and $5,000 contributions from a labor union. The stances of the two candidates on housing and the environment have also earned them the support of YIMBYs of Northern Virginia, Greater Greater Washington and the Sierra Club.

Vice-Chair Libby Garvey has diverged from her colleagues, endorsing Natalie Roy and Susan Cunningham, who previously ran for County Board as an independent.

Cunningham, who has led affordable housing and social safety net nonprofits, and Roy, who also considers environmental action a top priority, staked out positions opposed to the zoning changes known as Missing Middle for being short-sighted. Garvey helped usher in the new ordinance, allowing by-right development of 2-6 unit buildings on single-family lots, but later elaborated on her misgivings.

Supporters for Roy and Cunningham include some previously elected Democrats as well as community and civic association leaders and, for Cunningham, advocates for affordable housing and more robust social safety net initiatives. Roy picked up the support of former School Board members Nancy Van Doren and James Lander.

Roy’s largest contributor donated $7,000 in this race, including $4,000 to her, $1,000 to Cunningham and $2,000 to Katcher. Cunningham’s largest supporter donated $2,000 to her this race and in her 2020 bid as an independent.

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A campaign sign for Arlington County Board candidate Natalie Roy with other candidate signs in the background (staff photo)

(Updated at 12:10 p.m.) Two candidates have emerged as top fundraisers ahead of this year’s Democratic primary: Natalie Roy for Arlington County Board and Josh Katcher for Commonwealth’s Attorney.

That’s according to newly-filed quarterly campaign financial reports.

The six candidates for County Board, two for Commonwealth’s Attorney and three for Sheriff will run in a primary on June 20 to determine the local party’s nominees headed to the general election. The Arlington County Democratic Committee will hold a caucus in May to endorse a School Board candidate.

In statements, Roy and Katcher said the numbers show their message resonates with people who do not feel heard or are concerned with the direction Arlington is headed — whether on housing and community engagement or on prosecutorial reforms.

Roy, a realtor noted for getting around on bicycle, kicked off her campaign by expressing misgivings with the zoning ordinance changes known as Missing Middle, which passed in March. She instead suggested other solutions — such as turning the vacant, condemned Key Bridge Marriott into housing and county amenities.

She comes in first at $51,237, followed by former Arlington NAACP branch president Julius “JD” Spain, $48,032, and businessman Tony Weaver, $46,087.

While Roy has the most donations over $100, her campaign highlighted that 80% of donors were Arlington voters and 80% donated less than $250.

Donations above and below $100 to Arlington County Board candidates (chart by Jo DeVoe)

“This shows both strong grassroots and widespread community support, a sign that Natalieā€™s message has been resonating with Arlington voters who feel like their voice has not been heard in recent years,” per a statement she released on Tuesday.

“From hosting small meet & greets in their living rooms, to knocking doors, to donating, their strong and steady support has made it possible for me to do the best part of a campaign — meeting with and hearing from Arlingtonians across the county,” Roy continued.

With $105,526 raised and more than $90,000 spent, Katcher — who worked as a prosecutor under Theo Stamos and his now-opponent, incumbent Parisa Dehghani-Tafti — outraised and outspent his former boss.

ā€œOurs is the peopleā€™s campaign, and once again the Arlington and Falls Church City communities have stepped up and proven that,” he said in a statement. “Since I kicked off my campaign in November, we have surpassed our fundraising targets — twice. Thank you to all the supporters who have helped make this possible.”

2023 fundraising vs. expenses for Commonwealth’s Attorney race (chart by Jo DeVoe)

Katcher’s campaign said all his support is derived from individuals. Per the nonprofit Virginia Public Access Project, which compiles campaign reports, some 400 people have donated to his campaign. Dehghani-Tafti has received donations through some 150 individual contributions in addition to three PACs.

The largest of these is an in-kind donation of $8,000 from Justice and Public Safety PAC, a PAC funded by George Soros. The billionaire philanthropist donated millions to the PAC, supporting dozens of progressive prosecutor candidates in the U.S., including several hundred thousand dollars in cash and services to Dehghani-Tafti’s successful 2019 campaign.

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Candidates for Arlington County Sheriff during a recent forum hosted by Offender Aid and Restoration (via Offender Aid and Restoration/Facebook)

All three candidates looking to replace Sheriff Beth Arthur, who retired at the end of last year, say they want to end solitary confinement.

This unifying policy position surfaced during a forum hosted by the nonprofit Offender Aid and Restoration last Thursday.

Arlington County police officer James Herring, retired sheriff lieutenant Wanda Younger and Acting Sheriff Jose Quiroz are seeking the nomination of the Arlington County Democratic Committee in the June primary.

Although unified on running a “safe and progressive” jail, including by ending solitary confinement, they had different plans for improving the physical safety and mental well-being of staff and inmates.

“We’re definitely going to remove [solitary confinement],” said Quiroz, the son of Honduran immigrants who grew up in Arlington and joined the Sheriff’s Office 21 years ago after a stint in the Marine Corps. “We’re already reviewing this. It’s not helpful, it’s not healthy and it’s not rehabilitative. It needs to go.”

Herring, a graduate of Arlington Public Schools who was aĀ police officer in D.C.’s Ward 8 before joining the Arlington County Police Department in 2019, said there are better alternatives to the practice.

“There are going to be people who will have to be separated from others because they just will not work well for whatever reason — they might have to be separated for safety reasons — but we absolutely cannot put people in holes and forget about them,” he said. “We need to connect them to mental and medical health care and keep them connected with family.”

Younger, who retired from the Sheriff’s Office after 31 years of service, said solitary confinement exacerbates mental health issues rather than contributing to an individual’s rehabilitation.

“What we need to do is focus on programs to help identify the root causes of why people act in certain ways,” she said, calling for training in trauma-informed care and in understanding common triggers of negative behaviors.

They articulated positions ARLnow previously reported on, regarding well-being in the jail, which saw seven men die while in jail. Six of the inmates were Black, which led the Arlington branch of the NAACP to pushĀ for greaterĀ transparency from the office and changes to jail operations.

Quiroz says he is bringing in biometric sensors that allow staff to respond to medical emergencies “where seconds and minutes count” and interested in the county assuming control of medical care.

ACSOĀ ditched its former contracted medical care provider in response to a growing number of deaths in the jail, and one inmate has died since the new provider took over.

Herring argued for adding in-house psychiatrists to the existing ranks of therapists and clinicians.

“We still have to ship people across the state to actually see a psychiatrist who does not know them, their community, where they’re from or what their issue is,” he said. “Oftentimes they just load them up with meds and send them back here until they’re tranquilized enough… to carry on, and the cycle repeats.”

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The following was funded, in part, by the ARLnow Press Club. Become a member today and support in-depth local reporting.

In Arlington and across the state, hospital emergency rooms are filling up with people in mental health crises, often handcuffed to gurneys and attended by law enforcement officers.

People in these situations can’t walk around, save to go to the bathroom, and they can’t see their families. They may be calm or exhibiting aggressive behaviors; they might be hearing voices or may not have eaten in days because they believe their food is poisoned.

Whatever the case, they are in the emergency room because local clinicians determined they are a danger to themselves or others or unable to care for themselves, and need to be treated by specialized staff in a hospital.

Magistrates placed them under the civil custody of law enforcement officers, who have to stay with them until ER nurses can conduct a basic physical exam and clear them to go to that hospital’s behavioral health ward, where they will receive additional treatment.

That is how it should work.

But a statewide shortage of adult psychiatric beds means people in crisis — and under either an eight-hour emergency custody orders (ECOs) or 72-hour temporary detention orders (TDOs) — could wait hours under the eye of law enforcement for medical clearance while local social workers call every hospital in the state searching for beds. Once beds are located, police will drive their charges there — sometimes up to five hours away.

The shortage is straining Virginia’s mental health care system, which is held up by dwindling ranks of under-resourced clinicians, nurses and law enforcement working overtime.

“You do wonder, how much is this helping this person as opposed to hurting someone?” said police officer James Herring, who is running for Arlington County Sheriff. “This ‘help’ feels very, ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.’ That’s not what any of us wants, but it’s the way the system has evolved.”

The current crisis is a result of the state’s decision in 2021 to close most state psychiatric hospitals, which were understaffed due to low wages, hazardous working conditions and Covid. This took some 260 psychiatric beds offline, resulting in people across the state being diverted to remaining state facilities, including Northern Virginia Mental Health Institute, where many Arlington patients go.

The bed shortage has prompted Arlington County law enforcement agencies, the Dept. of Human Services and Community Services Board and VHC Health — the new name of Virginia Hospital Center — to work together to move away from a system that they say causes trauma and pulls officers away from important duties and toward a community-based continuum of care.

Just yesterday (Tuesday), VHC announced it will be building a facility dedicated to behavioral health at its former urgent care facility at 601 S. Carlin Springs Road.

“The crisis with the state hospital beds has forced us, locally and regionally, to bust our butt to come up with [ways to] help people who are in crisis,” says Deborah Warren, the executive director of the Arlington Community Services Board and the DHS Deputy Director.

Other events threw these systemic issues into relief, too, Warren says. The Richmond police shooting of Marcus-David Peters, who was having a psychotic episode, demonstrated the risk of police responding to a behavioral health problem while pandemic-era isolation has made mental illnesses more acute.

“It’s true for every population and age band,” Warren said. “People aren’t doing well, post-pandemic… Anybody can go into a behavioral health crisis… It’s neurotypical people who are overwhelmed and overrun with feelings of anxiety and depression… People are more self-destructive. It’s gut-wrenching.”

Last year, the Virginia legislature directed the state Dept. of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services to discuss alternatives to police transportation, with stakeholders that included Arlington police, says ACPD spokeswoman Ashley Savage. The workgroup came up with the idea for the Prompt Placement Task Force, which brings together government agencies, public and private hospitals, law enforcement and community partners to address the crisis.

Gov. Glenn Youngkin announced the creation of this task force, of which Warren is a member, in December 2022. The goal is to come up with solutions that could be enacted this legislative session.

But the problem won’t get better until every locality has more services upstream, said state Sen. Barbara Favola, who noted Arlington has “more community-based care than most parts of the state.”

“Virginia has more people in psych beds than need to be there because we don’t have a community-based network to release them into care,” she said.

A whiteboard at Arlington County’s Crisis Intervention Center (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Getting byĀ 

Historically, Virginia mostly funded state facilities and wealthy jurisdictions in Northern Virginia, like Arlington County, applied local tax dollars to their community services boards, explains Warren. But as evidenced by the current crisis, even Arlington has room to improve.

“We have a long way to go, and the state has a long way to go,” she said.

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(Updated at 5:55 p.m.) All three candidates looking to replace Sheriff Beth Arthur, who retired at the end of last year, say they have ideas for changing how the jail is run.

They each say their ideas could help save the lives of those detained in jail, which is overseen by the Arlington County Sheriff’s Office.

In the last seven years, seven men have died while in jail, six of whom were Black, which led the Arlington branch of the NAACP to begin pushing for greater transparency from the office as well as changes to jail operations.

In most cases, the cause of death was ruled to be a “natural cause” — such as heart disease caused by high blood pressure — although opiate withdrawal was a complicating factor in one such case. One man died because of a mix of drugs in his system and another died by suicide.

“I’m concerned because the status quo is not working,” candidate Wanda Younger, who recently retired from the Sheriff’s Office after 31 years of service, said when she announced her campaign to the Arlington County Democratic Committee last week. “I will work with the County Board and state legislators to ensure there is 24-hour mental health and medical care for those detained.”

She later told ARLnow that outcomes would improve at the jail with this 24/7 supervision, as well as new leadership and more deputies on staff. The Sheriff’s Office, like the Arlington County Police Department, has been experiencing attrition that has made it harder for the department to perform basic duties, she says.

“I am committed to changing the lives of the staff, changing the lives of the detainees and changing your lives,” she said in her speech.

Jose Quiroz, who took over as the interim Sheriff yesterday (Monday) after Beth Arthur retired, says he wants to implement biometric screening — something the Sheriff’s Office has been discussing but has yet to purchase.

Inmates in the jail’s infirmary, which consists of 12 beds, would wear devices to monitor their vital signs , notifying staff of a medical emergency such as a substance use withdrawal. Depending on funding, he says, he would eventually like all inmates to wear such devices.

“We’re in 2023, technology is advanced — let’s use that to our advantage,” he tells ARLnow, adding that jails in some less urban, less wealthy jurisdictions from Alabama to Montana are already using this technology.

James Herring, a police officer with Arlington County, says the county should bring medical care in house. He suggested staffing the jail with psychiatrists and therapists who report to the county as well.

“We need to shift from a system that only treats people when something goes wrong to a system that” identifies problems before they arise, he said, adding that the jail should conduct baseline physicals and mental health checks, Herring told us after announcing his candidacy last week.

That may be more expensive, but it would giveĀ the Sheriff’s Office “full control and full knowledge” over what’s going on.

“Ms. Arthur started as a budget analyst,” he said. “We got what you’d expect to get when a budget analyst takes over.”

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Protesters at 2100 Clarendon Blvd (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

The Arlington County Sheriff’s Office, which runs the county jail, will be ending voluntary cooperation with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

In a letter to local activists and lawyers, Sheriff Beth Arthur said she will be updating ASCO policy regarding undocumented people after consulting with her attorney.

“The ASCO will no longer recognize any ‘voluntary action’ requests from ICE nor place the information in our records management system,” she said. “The sheriff’s office will no longer contact ICE for any releases from our facility, to include felony charges.”

The Sheriff’s Office will however “continue to follow state code and submit any required information to ICE and the Virginia State Compensation Board” andĀ “continue to honor any judicially signed warrants from ICE, which will be treated like any other detainer,” the letter says.

In a statement, immigration nonprofit LaColectiVA and Legal Aid Justice Center and the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild celebrated the decision.

“While there is more work to do to achieve all possible protections for people at risk of criminalization at the county level, this is a major win for Arlington County migrant communities,” they said. “We hope that this ongoing community effort will be a model for an ‘Arlington way’ where the people, particularly those who are most harmed by state violence in its different forms, are part of decision-making and leading changes toward truly just, safe and strong communities.”

The move comes after the Arlington County Board approved a “Trust Policy” limiting police cooperation with ICE this summer.

As part of the policy, the County Attorney will review relevant warrants, court orders and subpoenas received by county government offices, other than the police department, to determine if compliance with the federal immigration agency is required.

Officers can only notify ICE with approval from an on-duty watch commander or a supervisor ranked lieutenant or above. Cases must involve an undocumented immigrant who has committed a felony or has been deported before, or someone who was arrested on a violent felony, street gang offenses or a non-violent felony with a community safety, terrorism or human trafficking threat.

Violations of the policy will be investigated by the county or in the case of police, by the Community Oversight Board. Findings will go to the County Board.

At the time, activists criticized the policy for not requiring ASCO to stop notifying ICE when undocumented immigrants are released from jail, which they said led to “a breakdown of trust” in the migrant community.

Now, Arthur says the forthcoming changes respond to the “impactful experiences that individuals and families in the community have had to face regarding ICE interactions.”

“I am extremely passionate about my role as Sheriff which includes ensuring the safety and security of the individuals in our custody as well as the citizens of Arlington County,” she said. “I pride myself on making informed decisions that benefit the communities I represent, which has led me to making the changes noted above.”

On Monday, a day before the date on Arthur’s letter, emails between members of the Arlington County Board and Legal Aid Policy regarding the decision to end ICE collaboration were reprinted in the conservativeĀ news site Breitbart.

Per the site, the emails — obtained by the conservative nonprofit Immigration Reform Law Institute — reveal “the extent to which Arlington County Board members are working hand-in-hand with activists from the Legal Aid Justice Center (LAJC) to protect illegal aliens arrested for crimes from being turned over to [ICE] agents.”

It also brings up the county funding to LAJC.

Per the county’s 2022 budget, $25,000 would go to LAJC for offer legal aid and information to “help low-income immigrant workers and their families build assets and increase self-sufficiency.”

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(Updated at 10:10 a.m.) Candidates are starting to emerge in the races to replace two retiring, long-time local elected officials.

Last night’s Arlington County Democratic Committee meeting featured candidate announcements from Jose Quiroz, who is running for Arlington County Sheriff, and Kim Klingler, who is running for Commissioner of Revenue.

Quiroz, a 21-year veteran of the Arlington County Sheriff’s Office who would be the county’s first Latino sheriff, has the endorsement of retiring sheriff Beth Arthur.

More from a press release:

Tonight, Jose Quiroz announced his candidacy to be the Democratic nominee for Arlington County Sheriff before the Arlington County Democratic Committee. Jose has served the Arlington County Sheriff’s Office for over 21 years, rising through the ranks of the office and gaining experience in virtually every division.

“As Sheriff, I am committed to running a safe and progressive jail focused on rehabilitation and refocusing lives.” said Jose, “As part of this commitment I will explore eliminating phone and video call fees from the jail so that people in jail are able to maintain contact with their friends and family, which will make it easier for them to rejoin the community after incarceration.”

Additionally, current Sheriff Beth Arthur announced her early retirement this evening. As Chief Deputy, Jose will succeed Sheriff Arthur in January 2023. “I am incredibly thankful to have the support of Sheriff Arthur, a true leader and trailblazer as the first female Sheriff in Arlington County. I wish her well in her retirement after nearly 36 years with the office.”

On assuming the office, Jose will be the first Latino Sheriff in Arlington County. More about his platform and experience can be found at his campaign website: joseforsheriff.us

In Arlington County, the Sheriff’s Office is responsible for running the jail, providing courtroom security, transporting prisoners, serving summonses and assisting with traffic enforcement.

Also announcing a run for public office last night was Kim Klingler, a local civic figure who currently runs the Columbia Pike Partnership. Klingler is running for Commissioner of Revenue — the elected head of the local tax collection office — and would replace Ingrid Morroy.

Morroy, who first took office in 2004, announced her retirement and endorsed Klingler, according to a press release from the Columbia Pike Partnership.

Last night during the Arlington Democrats monthly meeting, Ingrid Morroy announced her retirement as Commissioner of Revenue for Arlington County and endorsed Kim Klingler, Columbia Pike Partnership Executive Director as her successor.

The Columbia Pike Partnership supports Kim’s decision to run for Commissioner of Revenue. “We’re excited about this opportunity for Kim. During the campaign and months ahead, Kim, the staff, and the board will remain focused on our mission and work in the community,” says Columbia Pike Partnership Board Chair Shannon Bailey.

The Columbia Pike Partnership does not endorse any political candidate in the 2023 election.

Klingler has twice unsuccessfully sought the Democratic nomination for County Board, in 2012 and 2017.

Morroy and Arthur have both been relatively popular in their respective roles, re-elected with more than 95% of vote in 2019 after running unopposed.

More recently, Arthur has faced scrutiny after a series of deaths at the jail, primarily among Black men. A wrongful death lawsuit was filed against Arthur and the Sheriff’s Office earlier this year by the family of one of the men who died. The jail has since updated some of its medical protocols.

More candidate announcements are expected in the coming weeks and months. Two County Board seats will be on next year’s ballot and at least one will be open, with County Board Chair Katie Cristol not seeking reelection.

“We’ll have a lot more candidates announcing,” Arlington County Democratic Committee chairman Steve Baker told the Sun Gazette. “Next year will be a busy year.”

Next year’s Democratic primary will be held in June and will feature a ranked-choice voting system.

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Sheriff Beth Arthur at Arlington Democrats watch party (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Arlington County Sheriff Beth Arthur says she will not be seeking reelection next year.

The first female sheriff in Arlington and in the state announced her decision in a statement released this morning. She has presided as Arlington County Sheriff for more than two decades.

“It has been a privilege and an honor to serve the citizens of Arlington County as their Sheriff but after 22+ years as Sheriff and 36 years with the Sheriff’s Office I think it’s time to hang up my spurs,” she said in a statement.Ā “My focus has always been the employees in the Sheriff’s Office and the exceptional work they do each day, the safety and security of the jail/courthouse and ensuring those incarcerated are treated with dignity and respect.”

Arthur started in the Sheriff’s Office in January 1986 as the budget analyst under then-Sheriff James Gondles. In 1988, she was promoted to Director of Administration, overseeing human resources, budgeting, training and IT functions.

The Arlington Circuit Court appointed her Sheriff on July 7, 2000, and she was subsequently elected in a special election that November, per the press release. She was reelected in 2003, 2007, 2011, 2015 and 2019. During that time, she joined several organizations, such as the Virginia Sheriffs’ Association, where she became the first woman elected president and today serves on its Board of Directors and legislative committee.

Arthur thanked her staff of 298 for the “tireless work they do” to “prepare individuals to have tools and resources to return to their community to be productive members of society.”

She praised them for their Covid response, saying they “worked diligently to adapt policies and practices and they have done an outstanding job.”

Reflecting on her time in office, she expressed pride in how her deputies responded to 9/11. They served as first responders at the Pentagon, provided meals from the jail kitchen and screened delivery trucks.

“I am proud of our Arlington community as we rose to the challenge and embraced each other as one,” she said.

But, she said, her work is also about “those remanded into our care,” which included an average of 272 inmates a night between July 2021 and June 2022.

Her tenure saw upgrades to the inmate library, as well as the launch of the Community Readiness Unit — which provides transition services to inmates and follows them after their release — and work partnership programs, pet therapy and increased partnership with Offender Aid and Restoration, which works with incarcerated individuals in Arlington and the cities of Alexandria and Falls Church.

During this time, however, seven men died in as many years while in jail. It’s unclear what caused the uptick, but the Sheriff’s Office previously told ARLnow reasons range from a lack of medical care outside of the jail to drug withdrawal.

The death of Darryl Becton in 2020 in particular sparked increased scrutiny of the jail’s practices, from the Arlington County Board but mostly the Arlington branch of the NAACP, of which Arthur is also a member. After Becton died, the NAACP called for an independent investigation, and this year, after the death of another inmate, Paul Thompson, it escalated this refrain by calling for an investigation by the U.S. Dept. of Justice.

Meanwhile, Becton’s family filed a wrongful death suit this spring and theĀ Virginia’s Jail Review Committee, part of the Board of Local and Regional Jails, conducted its own investigation.

It found evidence suggesting the jail had broken state regulations in Becton’s death, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch. After the Sheriff’s Office outlined steps it took — hiring a quality assurance manager, making plans to buy a new medical tracking device, updating health check protocols and changing healthcare providers — the review board concluded that “no further measures are necessary” and closed its investigation.

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The family of Darryl Becton with Arlington NAACP President Julius “JD” Spain, Sr. (staff photo)

A man who was charged in connection to the death of Darryl Becton in Arlington County jail in 2020 has been found not guilty.

Antoine Smith was charged in September 2021 with the misdemeanor of falsifying a patient record.

Smith worked for Corizon Correctional Health, the jail-based medical provider at the time of Becton’s death, which has been sued multiple times across the nation for inmate deaths allegedly connected to inadequate care.

When reached by phone, Smith’s attorney declined to comment on the outcome of the case.

The charge was levied against Smith as part of a year-long investigation into the circumstances surrounding Becton’s death at the Arlington County Detention Facility.

In the wake of his death, the Arlington branch of the NAACP called for an independent investigation. The jail, meanwhile, cut ties with Corizon and updated its protocols.

One month later, Becton’s family filed a $10-million wrongful death lawsuit against Arlington County Sheriff Beth Arthur, the elected official who oversees the jail and the Sheriff’s Office, as well as Corizon and four medical staffers, including Smith.

The suit alleges that medical staff did not treat and properly monitor Becton’s drug withdrawal symptoms or high blood pressure, despite being aware of his condition and the risks associated with it.

The lawyer for the case did not return a request for comment on how the not-guilty verdict for Smith impacts the lawsuit.

Becton was the fifth person — and the fourth Black man — to die in the facility while in custody in five years, according to the Arlington branch of the NAACP. Since then, the number of people who have died in the detention facility has risen to seven, prompting the Arlington County Board to pledge greater oversight over how the jail is managed.

For the NAACP, the charges against Smith were never its focus.

“Even had Mr. Smith been found guilty of that charge, it would not have answered the central question: why did Mr. Becton die?” Arlington NAACP President Julius “JD” Spain told ARLnow. “The NAACP remains committed to helping our entire community understand how this avoidable tragedy happened, so we can work together to ensure it never happens again.

“We will continue to advocate for a better public safety system that reduces the reliance on prisons as means of solving social problems, and advances effective law enforcement,” Spain continued.

The verdict does raise a host of questions about who supervises jail-based healthcare providers and their employees, and where was that supervisor when Becton died, Spain said.

“So, finally, why did it take this unnecessary and tragic death, seven in seven years, to ultimately cause the Sheriff’s office to find a new contractor?” Spain said. “To date, no one has been held accountable. Is it a toxic work environment, fear of retaliation, or improper management of personnel? Every day that passes without an answer, trust and confidence in leaders and the justice system erode.”

The jail has taken some corrective steps to improve its treatment of inmates, including hiring a quality assurance manager, planning to buy a new medical tracking device and updating health check protocols.

These actions led Virginia’s Jail Review Committee, part of theĀ Board of Local and Regional Jails, to conclude that “no further measures are necessary” and close its investigation into the Arlington jail last month. Its investigation found evidence suggesting the jail had broken state regulations in Becton’s death, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

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Darryl Becton’s aunt, Ramona Pugh, left, and sister Monique Ford, right (staff photo)

The Arlington County Detention Facility has implemented several measures in response to the death of an inmate in 2020.

The jail has hired a quality assurance manager, planned to buy a new medical tracking device and has updated health check protocols, according to a document that summarizes corrective measures it has taken.

A wrongful death lawsuit filed by Darryl Becton’s family alleges that medical staff at the Arlington lockup did not treat and properly monitor Becton’s drug withdrawal symptoms or high blood pressure, despite being aware of his condition and the risks associated with it.

The Arlington County Sheriff’s Office took a number of preventive measures following the death. One was a special directive to instruct staff to place all inmates self-reporting or expecting to experience withdrawals in the Medical Unit of the jail, according to the summary document obtained by ARLnow.

The office also hired a quality assurance manager in April, whose job is to oversee all contractors providing medical, food, phone and other services to people held in custody. Cristen Bowers is currently the manager, according to a press release.

The jail cut ties with its medical provider Corizon in October 2021 and signed a new contract with Mediko that was finalized in February.

Other actions taken include directing staff to check the vitals of those going through withdrawals every four hours instead of eight. The office is also planning to buy a medical device system that will “track heart rates and alert workstations” if an inmate’s heart rate is abnormal. The office plans to have the purchase funded in during the current fiscal year, which runs through next July.

These actions led Virginia’s Jail Review Committee, part of the Board of Local and Regional Jails, to conclude that “no further measures are necessary” and close its investigation into the Arlington jail last month. Its investigation has found evidence suggesting the Arlington jail had broken state regulations in Becton’s death, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

However, not all of the jail’s remedial actions were made public. Two policies made in the immediate aftermath of Becton’s death are redacted in the summary obtained by ARLnow, with the Sheriff’s Office stating disclosure “would jeopardize the safety or security” of law enforcement officers, the public and buildings.

The Times-Dispatch requested documents from the board related to the investigation and the corrected action plans but release of the action plans were denied, and other documents provided were redacted, according to the Times-Dispatch. The board’s executive director told the paper it wanted to “protect the ‘privacy’ of people who die in jails, and their families.”

In response, Becton’s family, who is suing the sheriff and Corizon, along with individual Sheriff’s Office and Corizon employees, called for the board to release the details of its decisions and the jail’s corrective action plan, according to a statement from NAACP’s Arlington branch.

By not publishing its suggestions for improvement with the public or “the larger jailed and incarceration community,” the board is “not allowing transparency in the process,” Becton family’s attorney Mark Krudys told ARLnow.

He says the family did not know about the content of the board’s investigation or the jail’s action plan.

The Becton family’s lawsuit has now moved to U.S. District Court upon a request from Sheriff Elizabeth Arthur and a deputy who was also sued, according to a docket report. In October 2021, a Corizon nurse was charged with falsifying patient records by the Commonwealth’s Attorney Office. The criminal case is still ongoing.

Despite the corrective actions, another Arlington jail inmate died in custody this past February. Of the seven people to have died in custody at the jail over the past seven years, six have been Black, according to the NAACP.

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