Home Tracy Pyles: Youngkin’s plan to close Augusta Correctional Center benefits only him

Tracy Pyles: Youngkin’s plan to close Augusta Correctional Center benefits only him

Tracy Pyles

Gov. Glenn Youngkin is a rich man, over $400 million rich. His life’s journey is not cluttered with obstacles, only successes. A private high school, Rice University and Harvard MBA were foundational in achieving great wealth from money management and private equity ventures. A fortunate son.

Some of us were dealt different cards as happens for the children of blue-collar workers and service employees. We accept that great wealth is as likely as winning a big lottery, but console ourselves believing hard work and fair play can still provide a contented life.

Gov. Youngkin’s plan to close four state prisons, and especially the Augusta Correctional Center, advances the interests of only the governor. To understand this, we need to consider this process more completely than just the budgets of four facilities.

The state legislature has decided at what point the Department of Corrections becomes obligated to take felons out of local confinements. The latest numbers from the Middle River Regional Jail show 149 felons residing in Verona that should be gone.

Each day of foot dragging benefits the state and hurts local taxpayers. The state pays $14 per day, per responsible prisoner, to localities, thus avoiding the $112 daily costs in their own facilities. The willful disregard of state policy, in this case, moves $5 million of tax obligation from the state to the MRRJ localities.

Closing four state facilities does not reduce the prison population, it simply means greater burden on local jail populations. And the choosing to close the Craigsville facility is proof this closure is political, not financial.

The latest Annual Report on the DOC website is from June 2022. Of Virginia’s 25 major correctional facilities, the best result was achieved by the efficiencies at Augusta Correctional: $25,577 annually for an average population of 1,194. The statewide average was $41,292.

A man wanting a promotion from governor to president demands just happy talk. Pushing this initiative through the General Assembly without allowing a hearing or an opposing amendment means no discouraging words.

My guess is that choosing Augusta Correctional, despite it being the state’s most cost-effective facility, rested on believing its two state representatives would put the governor’s wants ahead of the community needs. And so it was, both Sen. Mark Obenshain and Del. Chris Runion shared they would not put forward supportive amendments. Thoughts, prayers, and a white flag, Craigsville deserves better.

And while the day-to-day needs of people who live paycheck to paycheck, are not top of mind for this governor, making the super-wealthy super wealthier, seems to be. Josh Harris and Magic Johnson are two of the billionaire owners of the Washington Commanders. They both have past associations with Gienn Youngkin. And while each is obscenely rich, they still expect big tax help.

It has been reported that the governor is proposing up to $250 million of our highway funds for the project’s road needs. Virginia will further need to best D.C.’s $2 billion offer to prove our worthiness for the second worst team in pro football. If the Commanders land in Virginia, it means our governor was willing to surrender more of our money than the other leaders.


My suggestion is for the governor, our state senator, and our delegate to take time to tour the area they are choosing to financially diminish. Not a grandstanding parade, but an earnest visit to see, more than to be seen. To take note of the investment they are abandoning. And then to shuffle down the road to view the abandoned remains of the one-time largest Augusta County employer: Portland Cement.

To consider what that loss meant and then how it has been mended.  A drive through the humble but warm homes of Craigsville should give an uneasiness to even the coldest executioner. Craigsville has been denied the right to a trial, a weighing of evidence, and a thoughtful deliberation.

Craigsville deserves better. We all do. When our representative democracy is denied its representation by sleight of hand budget maneuvering and political cowardness, we all lose. Democracy retreats and the big boys claim their spoils. Some things never change.

Tracy Pyles is a former member of the Augusta County Board of Supervisors.