EDITOR’S NOTE: This semester WTVR.com has partnered with VCU’s School of Mass Communications “iPadJournos” mobile and social media journalism project. Students from the project reported the following story.
RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR.com) – Three challengers hope to unseat Richmond Sheriff C.T. Woody on Nov. 5 from the post he’s held since 2005. Each of the candidates – Maj. Antionette Irving of the Henrico Sheriff’s Office, former sheriff’s deputy Lamont Kizzie, and community activist Chris Dorsey – are criticizing Woody for his record as sheriff.
The VCU “iPadJournos” project interviewed the three challengers about their agendas and their views of the current sheriff. Woody did not answer requests for an interview for this story, but he stated in a recent interview with The Richmond Times-Dispatch that he is running on his “accomplishments, achievements, accountability.” The sheriff leads a department with more than 400 employees that runs the Richmond City Jail, is responsible for security in courthouses and serves legal papers.
Antionette Irving aims to improve jail conditions
Maj. Antionette Irving of the Henrico Sheriff’s Office, while critical of the current administration, said that her chief priority for the Richmond City Jail would be helping to reform conditions for the inmates.
“I want to make sure there are programs and services provided for the inmates that are incarcerated to ensure that they have a productive life after they return to society,” said Irving, who has been working for the Henrico Sheriff’s Office for 25 years and has a master’s degree from Central Michigan University in Criminal Justice Administration.
Irving said she plans to run the jail so that inmates are treated fairly and provided with proper medical care. Since 1994 more than 80 people have died while in the custody of the Richmond City Jail, according to a 2012 article by the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
“I think the main issue [for my campaign] is life, health and safety,” Irving said. “That’s a requirement of the Department of Corrections and criminal justice services that we look to improve and enhance and take care of the inmates that are entrusted to us.”
“Even though they’ve committed some type of crime,” she said, “whether they’re guilty or innocent, we’re still supposed to treat them humanely and make sure they’re provided with good care.”
Lamont Kizzie wants to arm deputies
Having spent over 30 years working in the Richmond Sheriff’s department, candidate Lamont Kizzie said he is ready to implement changes. A retiree since January of last year, Kizzie has served under three different sheriffs and admits he’s seen the sheriff’s position run right and wrong.
“With my experience I know what works, but I know most importantly what does not work,” Kizzie said. “And when you know that, that saves lives.”
High on Kizzie’s agenda ranks providing inmates better healthcare and ridding the department of nepotism and unfair policies toward the staff as well as inmates.
But a major issue of importance to Kizzie is equipping every deputy with a firearm.
“I’m saying every deputy should be issued a gun, because that is part of your uniform, that’s part of your training,” Kizzie said. “When you’re in the public wearing a uniform as a deputy and you can’t protect yourself, more or less the public, that reflects back on the sheriff with poor training.
“You don’t want that, you want to have a state-of-the-art sheriff’s office that is up to the 21st century,” he added.
If elected, Kizzie also hopes to change the department’s hiring practices. Sheriff Woody came under criticism after hiring 12 family members since his election in 2005. After pressure from the city council, Woody said in January that he would not hire any more family members, a move Kizzie said he never would have made in the first place.
“It’s not time to look at someone else to see what they should do about it,” Kizzie said. “I have the experience, I have the knowledge so give it a shot.”
Chris Dorsey seeks to end the War on Drugs
Chris Dorsey, the third challenger of Woody, is an activist as well as a radio and TV commentator. He is regularly featured on Press TV, an Iranian state-run television network based in Tehran, to discuss international banking and economics.
“If I can figure out something that complex – and it’s not that complex,” Dorsey said, “then I certainly know the tricks of idiots and thugs like C.T. Woody and Lamont Kizzie.” Like Irving, Dorsey expressed discontent towards the conditions in the jail under Sheriff Woody.
“C.T. Woody can’t even keep the heroin out of his own jail,” said Dorsey. “So why are we keeping people locked up in that jail and then feeding them with the substance that they were arrested for out on the street.”
While he is running on a platform that is critical of the Richmond City Jail and its staff, Dorsey stressed that upholding the law would take precedence to reforming the jail.
“My top priority,” Dorsey said, “is to uphold the Constitution of the United States of America and serve the people.”
Dorsey has also been a longtime opponent of the War on Drugs and said that enforcing laws that prohibit drug usage would be unconstitutional.
“The War on Drugs is nothing but a war on the American people,” Dorsey said. “Our prisons are bloated because illicit substances are imported into this country by the CIA and then disseminated out onto the street by federal and local law enforcement.”
The race for Richmond Sheriff will be decided on Election Day next Tuesday.
This story was reported by the “iPadJournos” mobile and social media journalism project, a cooperation between WTVR.com and VCU’s School of Mass Communications.