CJP joins 23 organizations to oppose regional jail expansion

Eastern Mennonite University’s Center for Justice and Peacebuilding has joined 23 organizations in Staunton, Augusta County, Waynesboro, Harrisonburg, and Rockingham County to formally state their opposition to the proposed Middle River Regional Jail expansion.

The coalition was facilitated by the organization Communities Against Middle River Jail Expansion (and on Facebook).

CJP Executive Director Jayne Docherty is among several area representatives quoted in the release. CJP graduate student Corey Chandler, a member of Virginia Organizing, is also quoted. 

“Show me your checkbook and I will tell you your values. We need to rebalance our investments,” Docherty says. “We need to say no to expanding the jail. We need to say yes to investing in the well-being of our neighbors and family members. We need to divert funding to mental health services, crime prevention programs, and substance abuse treatment options.”

The jail serves five member jurisdictions, which would split the costs of the proposed $40 million expansion plan. The plan would add 352 beds; expand the facility’s mental health services and community corrections housing for those on work release; and include renovations to the laundry, food and water service units. 

The Middle River Jail Authority Board will meet today [April 6] to vote on the plan. [Note: The vote was delayed.] Virginia Organizing hosted a drive-through protest rally yesterday evening at the jail.

The press release was accompanied by an informational flier listing the top concerns related to the expansion, including the number of inmates at Middle River who have not yet gone to trial; the rates of recidivism, mental illness, and substance use disorder among jail inmates; and the disproportionate incarceration of Black people there.

“Investing in our community means equitable access to housing, education, and employment,” said Chandler, who was formerly incarcerated at Middle River. “Investing in our communities means empowering our neighbors to be their best selves. Investing in our community is not creating more bed space in an already overcrowded jail whose only priority is to fill those beds.”

The organizations in opposition include:

– Allen Chapel AME Church, Staunton;

– Center for Justice and Peacebuilding at Eastern Mennonite University, Harrisonburg;

– Community Mennonite Church, Harrisonburg;

– Eye on Augusta;

– Faith in Action, Harrisonburg/Rockingham;

– Forward Staunton;

– FUEGO Coalition, Harrisonburg;

-Harrisonburg Unitarian Universalists;

– Immanuel Mennonite Church, Harrisonburg;

– John Wesley UMC, Harrisonburg;

– Justice for Prisoners, Waynesboro;

– Libertarian Party of Staunton;

– NAACP Harrisonburg-Rockingham;

– NAACP Staunton;

– Port Republic Road Historical and Community Association, Waynesboro;

– RISE, Waynesboro;

– Rockingham County Democratic Committee;

– Silver Run Forest Farm, Harrisonburg;

– Staunton Democratic Committee;

– Staunton Equity Coalition;

– Staunton Organizing;

– Valley Justice Coalition, Harrisonburg/Rockingham;

– Virginia Organizing, Harrisonburg/Rockingham;

– Waynesboro Democratic Committee.