Virginia Organizing protest to highlight Middle River Regional Jail vote
The Harrisonburg-Rockingham County and Waynesboro chapters of Virginia Organizing are holding a protest outside the Augusta County Government Center next week to call for a no vote on jail renovations and expansion at the Middle River Regional Jail.
The Tuesday, June 1 event will take place an hour before the Jail Authority’s meeting, where a vote on the future of the proposed jail renovations and expansion is expected.
“We are deeply concerned community members who will continue to demand full transparency from the Middle River Regional Jail board as they continue their disingenuous attempts to pull in more taxpayer funds under the disguise of saying they will provide more mental health services. MRRJ is not, nor should it attempt to be, a mental health facility. Taxpayer funds should go directly to well-trained mental health specialists completely outside the criminal justice system,” said Connie Wright-Zink, a member of the Waynesboro chapter of Virginia Organizing.
“In the last couple of weeks, members of the jail authority, and the mayors of the five jurisdictions that own MRRJ, met secretly, without allowing or receiving any public input, without taking any minutes or disclosing a plan that the general public can see about their decisions to conduct renovations or additional expansion of the jail,” said Anna Cubbage, a Rockingham County resident previously incarcerated at MRRJ.
“Virginia Organizing, and other organizations in the area, found out about a plan to add 48 “mental health” beds, thanks to people who leaked this information, but not because our elected officials informed us of this decision. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have any idea of their plan. Now the jail authority and the five jurisdictions are presumably endorsing a $14.5 million plan for ‘renovations’. This is another effort by the jail authority to move forward with expansion efforts and set the groundwork for future bed expansion,” Cubbage said.
Local organizations have pointed to large numbers of pre-trial inmates, high recidivism rates, the prevalence of mental illness and substance use disorders, and the disproportionate incarceration of Black and Brown people as indicators that there are deeper problems with the criminal justice system that will only be exacerbated by renovating or expanding the jail.