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There Aren't Enough Beds in This Virginia Jail for All the Women Caught in Heroin and 'Human Trafficking' Dragnets

"We don't have enough space for them," said sheriff.

Even as the waning of the war on weed makes a small dent in mass incarceration, American cops and prosecutors are rushing to restore jail and prison populations with new nonviolent vice offenders. One chilling case study can be found in Henrico County, Virginia, where the number of female inmates at the county jail has more than doubled in the past year, a leap largely due to prostitution and opioid arrests. The place is so overcrowded that a common room has been converted to an area where 50 or more women sleep on cots or slim mattresses on the floor.

"Our female population skyrocketed," Henrico County Sheriff Mike Wade told the Roanoke Times. "We don't have enough space for them."

What's behind this XX-chromosome crime wave? It's not an onslaught of ornery lady crooks; it's an intensifying police crackdown on sex workers and on people with drug dependence issues. Harsh mandatory sentencing policies may also play a role.

Patricia O'Bannon, chair of the county Board of Supervisors, says the problem stems from the Henrico Commonwealth's Attorney's overreliance on jail for people who need mental-health or drug-abuse treatment. But Michael Feinmel, who prosecutes drug- and prostitution-related cases for the county, claims that treatment resources are too scant and jail is the only option—at least it gets people off the streets.

Feinmel's justification implies that cops have no choice but to make all these prostitution and drug arrests—that these people are a nuisance to the public, or have no homes and anywhere else to go, or pose an immediate danger to themselves. But this isn't true.

Henrico County vice cops go out of their way to arrest these women, or at least the ones booked for prostitution. They troll online ads, reach out to sex workers pretending to be customers, and rent rooms at local motels where they can lure these women in order to arrest them. Or they travel to hotel rooms that women have rented and then arrest them for "keeping a bawdy place."

They do this under the guise of fighting "human trafficking," but it's just punishing women who sell sex. The "victims" are arrested and get to sleep on slim mattresses on the cement floor of an overcrowded jail where such basic necessities as toilet paper and menstrual pads are limited.

From 2014 through 2016, Henrico County Jail averaged just 118 to 124 female inmates per day. So far, 2017 has seen more than twice that. The jail's average female population per day this year so far has been 268—in a facility that only has 239 beds dedicated for women. Nearly 70 of of the inmates have been pregnant.

"I think judges used to be more lenient on females than males," the sheriff mused to NBC 12 Richmond, "but I think with more mandatory sentences and things, it's created an increase in [the female] population."

He said that more beds are being ordered (a step that has apparently taken 10 months of overcrowding to trigger). For now, apparently, converting the jail's dayroom into a communal sleeping area must do.

Last year, former FBI Director James Comey visited Henrico County to talk about opioid addiction. "We cannot arrest our way out of this problem," Comey said at the time. Evidently, Henrico County cops disagree.

Photo Credit: Screenshot/ABC 6 Richmond

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  • Half-Virtue, Half-Vice||

    My proggie friends foam at the mouth when they talk about private or for profit prisons.

    I ask, "do you know why those private prisons come about in the first place?"

    Their answer, "Human greed, duh."

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    All deaths are caused by lack of oxygen to the brain.

  • ||

    At least some are caused by an over-abundance of oxygen (and lead, steel, glass, etc.) to the brain.

  • some guy||

    All deaths are caused by lack of central nervous system activity.

  • GeneralWeygand||

    Nice...zing the Soavist in the comments of an ENB article.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    So are most of shreek's comments.

  • Paper Wasp||

    Oddly they're never upset at politicians, including Dems, who are retarded enough to sign quota agreements with private prisons.

    The problem with private prisons isn't that they're private, it's that they tell local governments "you either pay us X amount and meet X quota of prisoners, or we'll shut down the prison." The proper response to this extortion is "Cool, go ahead and shut down, we're not going to loose a goon squad on our constituents to drum up business for you." Unfortunately, politicians are fucking idiots, so many respond with "OMG, please stay open, we'll start arresting children for running lemonade stands and playing dodgeball without a license, I promise."

  • ||

    In their meager defense, this assumes unemploying prison guards to always be substantially different from loosing a goon squad on your constituents.

  • Half-Virtue, Half-Vice||

    The problem with private prisons isn't that they're private, it's that they tell local governments "you either pay us X amount and meet X quota of prisoners, or we'll shut down the prison."

    Eh, I think the more underlying problem is the immensity of America's mass incarceration in the first place. The hordes of petty criminals serving mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent, victim-less drug and sex crimes. The state sends so many people to prison that they cannot even, case-in-point, bed all of them. The limitless supply of prison fodder from the wars on sex and drugs fill US prisons pass the brim. The the state has a dilemma, raise taxes for new prisons to cope with the massive influx of criminals we have created or outsource it.

    They obviously choose outsourcing it, thus they allow for private prisons to carry the excess weight they have created. The privatized prisons also provides a barrier of protection for the state -- letting the ignorant and enraged populace damn the private prisons but few if any have any words to say about criminal justice reform, ending the drug war, mandatory minimums, etc. The root cause of the entire over populated prisons problem.

  • ||

    Nearly 70 of of the inmates have been pregnant.

    So, not an all-female prison then?

  • some guy||

    I'm sure it's possible to be arrested while pregnant.

  • ||

    So you're saying the number isn't close to 70 but that the were some pregnant near-inmates? Maybe aborted while being held near 20 weeks?

    Wait, it just dawned on me; the number is really 69 and ENB is avoiding it for gratuity/modesty reasons!

  • some guy||

    If your state/locality still has a law on the books that uses the term "bawdy", then you should really start trying to push for sunset provisions on laws.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    In some Virginia localities, any house in which more than four unrelated females live is legally considered a brothel, which was a hilarious thing for me and my friends to find out in college.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    No, the cats are all related.

  • ||

    'Citizen X's House of Clowder'

  • Citizen X - #6||

    Virginia also has (or had until recently) a law against having a bathtub inside your house. Somehow, the cops managed to refrain from arresting every homeowner.

  • Trainer||

    You're assuming that all houses in Virginia have bathtubs in them.

  • ||

    It's not an onslaught of ornery lady crooks;

    An onslaught of onslot sleeping arrangements? Haught!

  • Half-Virtue, Half-Vice||

    *polite applause*

  • Citizen X - #6||

    [jazz hands]

  • Crusty Juggler||

    So then just build a bigger prison.

    Duh. Doy.

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