The Political Incest of Incarceration.

Posted by: Tony – May 31, 2010


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On this blog you'll find my photography, writing, the realm where they meet (photojournalism), episodes of my Richmond radio show, music I've recorded and other digital pieces of my life. I've been told that to market myself, I should avoid appearing appearing like a "Jack of all trades". It's a good thing I'm not marketing myself. Enjoy it all. (blog started April, 2010 - working on uploading tons of stuff, but it will take a little while)


The Richmond City Jail has some serious issues. The building was originally designed to hold 850 inmates, but has been cramming in between 1,400 and 1,600 people at any given time. Reporting on the situation almost exactly one year ago, the Richmond Times-Dispatch noted that the population routinely includes hundreds with mental-health problems and dozens awaiting trial on minor charges for which the sentence is less than the time they spend waiting for their day in court.

Plans for renovations have been tossed around for some time, but the problem is money. What to do in a state with a $2.2 billion budget shortfall? Mayor Dwight Jones had an idea.

Back in 2002, legislation known as the “Public-Private Education Facilities and Infrastructure Act” was passed by the General Assembly. Its primary purpose was ostensibly to allow private investors to participate in the construction (and profit-making) of any facility that is operated as part of the public school system or as an institution of higher education[2], hence the title.

But it also allows for private involvement with any building for principal use by any public entity. Since jails are technically public entities (run by the state), Jones decided to solicit proposals for jail renovations from private companies in the Richmond area.

Eleven companies responded to the city with proposals for renovating the old jail. All of them would be returned without ever being opened. It was only the 12th, unsolicited proposal that Mayor Jones was interested in – not to renovate the old jail, but to construct an entirely new one with greater capacity on the south side. The proposal came from a corporation called City Central, and is comprised of at least five major campaign contributors to none other than Mayor Dwight Jones himself.