New ‘neighbors’ coming to Isle of Wight?
Published 1:48 pm Monday, February 18, 2019
Approximately 14 years ago my family and I moved to Isle of Wight County near Windsor. We intentionally moved out of a more suburban setting to provide a rural agrarian lifestyle for our children and family.
I was very concerned to learn of the plans by county supervisors to place a juvenile detention facility close to Windsor. In reaching out to neighbors, I’ve been surprised at the number of individuals who are unaware of plans for placement of this facility. Overwhelmingly, citizens in the surrounding area, once informed, are in opposition to this facility.
Let me share my reflections on the social implications to our community, impact of inmate placement in our specific county and economic effects.
Several studies have been done which explore the economic and social impact of placement of facilities such as prisons and correctional facilities in small, rural towns. On the surface it might sound like a beneficial proposition to a small town or rural county economically. Unfortunately, however, these studies suggest the contrary.
On the subject of local economics, the proposed facility will have around 240 job opportunities. Only 40 or so will be potentially available to local residents, according to Andy Block, the director of the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ). The majority of employees will most likely be from other localities. Studies have confirmed this, thereby limiting the positive impact economically to the local area. On top of this, the fact that the county plans to give the land to the State, as well as pay $500,000 toward running water/sewer, makes it an even harder sell to taxpayers.
The DJJ states that one of the main reasons they like Windsor is because it will be closer to the inmates’ families than the current facility near Richmond. The majority of inmates placed here will likely be from the Hampton Roads area. When this facility was originally considered for placement in the Hickory area of Chesapeake, there was fear that it would be too far for these families. Placement in Windsor certainly does not provide closer distance for family and social support. Placement in our county suggest that this may further limit access and reduce social support for these individuals. Studies indicate that social support of these individuals to reduce recidivism rate is critical and further distance between inmates and families negatively impacts their rehab potential.
Studies have also shown that small communities experience recruitment problems. These become known as “Prison Towns” and luring businesses and families into the area becomes difficult. In addition, when counties are divided over this issue, there are long-term negative effects for all communities within.
For many people, safety is an issue. Windsor is full of trusting people who have been here for generations. The thought of a nearby facility housing violent offenders, including murderers and rapists, is an emotional subject. While the DJJ all but promises there will be no escapes, people are concerned, and rightly so. Which brings me to the crux of the matter:
The feel, the way of life, the community of this small-town farming area will forever be drastically changed. As one study concluded — the impact becomes “Diminished Quality of Life.”
I ask all Isle of Wight residents to do their research, to talk to their neighbors on this end of the county, and to explore the facts that surround placement of this facility. Then be present at the public hearing on [Thursday,] Feb. 21, at 6 p.m. at the Courthouse. The Board will ultimately make the final decision, but we have the right and privilege of sharing our concerns.
I would strongly encourage the county supervisors to carefully, diligently and thoughtfully review the above information considering their position on placement of this facility. I would also ask them to consider the potential longterm serious division that this may cause in our county.
Thank you again for this opportunity to express my concerns.
Daren M. Wingard