Sheriff Defends Staff Expenses, Touts Improvements 

I am writing to clarify information that appeared in the recent article, "Labor: 19 Hours; FOIA Request: $324; Mismanaged Jail: Priceless" (Street Talk, June 20).

The FOIA [Freedom of Information Act] requests referenced in the article were amended by Style on more than one occasion, which required my staff to recapture information several different times and escalated staff hours needed to meet the requests.

A crumbling jail with archaic systems was my inheritance when the people elected me sheriff. While the jail's automated systems are antiquated, earlier this year, we received a $200,000 grant to update our electronic database and record-keeping systems. I prioritized that we first address our Jail Management System, which tracks and documents all inmates, before we move to our personnel data system. Hence, the only way to process Style's original and revised FOIA requests was through a manual process.

It is unfortunate that Style chose to again reference the "Trouble on the Block" article (Cover Story, March 21), which inaccurately documented racial preferences, despite the fact that almost 30 percent of my command staff is white, overseeing a jail population where 80 percent of inmates are black. While applications from all races are welcome, the Richmond City Jail faces a serious recruitment and retention challenge, given its lower salaries, harsh working conditions and lower benefits, until the passage of the recent LEOS, the Law Enforcement Officer Supplement retirement legislation, at the Virginia General Assembly, which will take effect on July 1.

To be clear, I am solely focused on putting the best person in place for the job at hand. Among those I have hired are those with master's and bachelor's degrees, retired professionals and simple hard workers with related job experience. No one on my roster gets preferential treatment. In assuming the office of sheriff without a proper transition, I wanted to immediately surround myself with trusted, competent and committed staff to fill the critical functions in effectively operating the jail.

For the record, I value and trust my employees, whether I brought them in or they have been here for years. Without question, they are the backbone of each of the many accomplishments made during my administration, such as:

ú Completing the $900,000 lock replacement project ahead of schedule

ú Installing the jail's first surveillance camera system

ú Launching the citywide abatement of nuisance properties

ú Starting the Deadbeat Dad Taskforce, which has brought in parents owing almost $2 million to Richmond's children, and

ú Working with a dozen pastors and churches to offer educational scholarships and programs for ex-offenders reentering the community.

Our successes strengthen my commitment to the citizens of Richmond. Those who bring needed, positive progress to an organization, as I have, will upset the small few who resist change.

Given this fact, I will continue working to restore community confidence in this office and I will continue to abide by my promise to run a transparent agency by keeping the public informed of the good as well as the bad in performing the duties entrusted to me by the people.

C.T. Woody Jr.
Sheriff, City of Richmond

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