City council recap: City jail concerns resurface

The remnants of last summer’s heat wave which caused the death of two Richmond City Jail inmates came up at the most recent City Council meeting, two separate incidents that prompted the ACLU to petition the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate. Two passionate Richmonders brought their concerns to the Council. How were their comments received?

At last night’s Richmond City Council meeting the conditions of the current City Jail and how a new jail might alleviate the problem of dangerously inadequate conditions came to the forefront once again. With temperatures reaching above 90 degrees Fahrenheit and the past deaths of two inmates, whether the current facility is inhumane or not was brought up during public comment period.

Among the council meeting attendees was outspoken Richmonder Chris Dorsey. Dorsey has been speaking out against the conditions of the jail since the death of two inmates last summer. He said lack of proper ventilation at the jail and other issues with how the facilities are ran are unconstitutional.

“The violations of the law of the land particularly the 8th amendment that have resulted in deaths at the Richmond City Jail due to cruel and unusual punishment, including withholding of medical treatment, temperatures that reach over 120 degrees, beatings, the list goes on,” said Dorsey.

Fans were installed and plans were discussed to move certain offenders out of the jail and into alternative facilities. Dorsey didn’t seem to think the city’s actions had been effective. “The law is clear. Nothing has been done to alleviate the situation at the jail,” He said. “This has been used as an excuse to build the new jail which will be expanded, which will be able to house even more inmates in the largest prison population on the planet, in one of the largest prison populations in the country, that has the largest prison population on the planet.”

Dorsey has also been a loud opponent of the War on Drugs. The connections he sees between the War on Drugs and the new jail peppered his address to council. “That’s what this jail is all about. It’s about profiteering from the prison state, the unconstitutional war on drugs,” he said.

Dorsey said he met with employees of the City of Richmond last week to discuss what needed to be done concerning the problems with the jail.

“I discussed the 8th Amendment to the constitution and his complicity to it with Mayor Dwight Jones on Monday and he asked me what the 8th Amendment was,” he said. “Now this is really kind of ridiculous but someone has to come up here, and there are other people standing with me saying the constitution must be upheld and this government doesn’t really have any sort of legitimacy at all.”

Fellow attending Richmonder Larry Roussell also questioned the jail along with Dorsey, though Roussell’s concerns were different.

“The articles I’ve read about the jail that’s being proposed said nothing about LEED, standards or levels of efficiency that could be achieved in a building that if it is like it’s predecessor, will last for fifty or more years,” he said. “My concern is the utilities will be paid by the taxpayers.”

Another hot button issue was added to the agenda for the next City Council formal meeting on July 11th. Councilman Charles Samuels (North Central 2nd District) amended his proposal for a noise ordinance, changing the cut off time for noise from 9pm to 10pm. The current Richmond noise ordinance was deemed unconstitutional last November.

Photos by: John Garcia

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Caroline Jackson

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