Press Release Virginia Department of Corrections on National Volunteer Week

The Department of Corrections was thanking its volunteers last week as it celebrated National Volunteer Week. From helping offenders create art to offering tips on financial management, thousands of volunteers offer their time and energy to incarcerated offenders every year. Statewide volunteer efforts are valued at about $2.76 million a year.
“Volunteers make invaluable contributions to the Department. Their generosity of spirit lifts offenders and propels the agency forward in its efforts to help people be better,” said Director Harold Clarke.
VADOC’s volunteer efforts cover a wide spectrum including religion, health, education, military benefits and reentry efforts.
Teaching others the joy of painting with oils has brought a special satisfaction to Richmond-area artist Bev Perdue Jennings. Her students, offenders incarcerated at the Virginia Correctional Center for Women, find the class transformative.
Ms. Jennings was one of approximately 4,800 people who contributed a collective 108,000 hours to the Department of Corrections in fiscal 2018. Including approximately $61,000 in donations, the VADOC volunteer program’s total value in FY 2018 was an estimated $2.76 million.
“It empowers them,” Ms. Jennings said. Her volunteer efforts under the auspices of the non-profit Art for the Journey have an added benefit for her. “Anytime you give back, you get as much as you give.”
This story is familiar to Melissa Welch, the VADOC’s volunteer coordinator. “People often find that in helping others, the person they help the most is themselves,” she said.
Art for the Journey is just one volunteer effort working to help incarcerated people successfully transform their lives. Other examples include:
Kairos Prison Ministry of Virginia, whose volunteers seek to address the spiritual needs of offenders.
St. Brides Correctional Center in Chesapeake hosts a non-religious reentry-focused Prison Fellowship Academy, a one-year program.
The God Behind Bars initiative at Nottoway Correctional Center is an effort by the Passion Community Church in Powhatan to create a congregation that holds regular, weekly services.
Drive-to-Work, a non-profit organization, sends volunteer attorneys into many prisons around Virginia helping offenders restore their driving privileges.
The Virginia Department of Veteran Services initiated a statewide program to ensure that incarcerated veterans and their family members utilize their military benefits. Often their representatives are volunteers who work to aid reentry and workforce development.
The State Farm Correctional Center in Powhatan houses one of the VADOC’s thriving volunteer efforts. Last week, State Farm brought in a representative from the Virginia Credit Union who spent two hours talking to 140 men about better managing their finances. The next day the facility hosted a resource fair attended by 200 men who heard from several local employers about employment opportunities available to them upon release. State Farm regularly hosts graduate students from the Virginia Commonwealth University who teach a popular parenting class.
“You name it, we’ve got it covered,” said State Farm’s Institutional Program Manager Adam Booker. “It’s all about finding the space and time to do it.”
For more information on VADOC click:

Lee County Teacher Pay Raises

Recently the Lee County School Board adopted the state funded 5% pay raise method for teachers. Actual percentage rates will vary from 2% to 20%. The uproar over this seems to be the vast differences in the various raises per teacher; with some receiving a little less than 3% while others can expect up to a 26% increase in wages. The deciding factor as to distributing seems to be length of work experience, with those having the most experience receiving the smallest token amount in raises.
With the average household income in Lee County currently at just under $32,000, education providers, such as teachers were ranked third, surpassed by coal miners and truck drivers. So even though the Lee County School Board voted unanimously for the 5% state funded pay raises across the commonwealth. Since Virginia's state budget is for two years duration, new budgets are created in even numbered years and amended in odd numbered years the future rate increase is not certain. Currently the state budget that funds these teacher pay increases expires in June of 2020, and at this time no funding is guaranteed past that.

Four Sentenced in Connection with Southwest Virginia Drug Organization

Four additional members of a drug distribution organization were sentenced on Monday in the United States District Court in Abingdon. In all eleven people have been charged as part of this drug ring that trafficked Cocaine, Heroin, Methamphetamine and Oxycodone into southwest Virginia from the state of Georgia. Thanks to prosecutors, Timothy Peek was given one hundred and eight  months, Douglas Urnick was sentenced to twenty-four months, Dale Leichtenberg got five months and Rebecca Owens received three years probation.

Got Drugs Campaign 2019

Wise County is participating in the Got Drugs Campaign again this year. This is the time to turn in your unused or expired medications for safe disposal with no questions asked. At this time participating community partners will be designated collection sites for controlled, non-controlled, and over the counter medications. All solid dosage products as well as liquids will be accepted in their original container please.
Please note that no illicit substances such as marijuana and methamphetamine etc, IV fluids, sharps/needles will be accepted at these locations. For everything else use your closest community partner from the list below.
Big Stone Gap Food City & Police Department
Coeburn Food City
Gate City Scott County Sheriff’s Office
Pennington Gap Food City & Police Department
Norton CVS Pharmacy & City of Norton Police Department
St. Paul Food City
Weber City Food City & Police Department
Wise Food City & Police Department
Additional information is available by contacting Frontier Health Prevention Services at 1-888-443-1804 or

Wise County Clean Up Days

Guest River Gorge cleanup will be April 18th beginning at 9am. Participants are encouraged to join with the US Forest Service to help pick up trash. Lunch will be provided by KWCB. All volunteers are welcome and kayakers are also urged to volunteer to reach riverside trash that is otherwise unreachable. In the event of rain it will be rescheduled for April 24th.
Other clean up days will include Clean Your Files Day on Friday April 26th rain  or shine at the old Magic Mart location in Norton from 10am-2pm. The Great American Cleanup will be Saturday April 27th from 9am-2pm except for Norton, which will be 9am-1pm. For addition information on litter cleanup events please contact Greg Cross at 276-328-1000.

Randall F. Rhodus Arrested on Multiple Charges

A Scott County Deputy conducted a traffic stop at Patriot Fuel in Gate City. The deputy stopped a vehicle being driven by Randall F. Rhodus for expired tags. According to DMV files, Rhodus is listed as having a suspended license in Kentucky.
After asking Rhodus if he had any weapons on him, the deputy was advised that he had some knives. The deputy asked him to empty his pockets onto the hood of the car. Rhodus also had a bottle with a baggie in it, which contained a crystal like substance. The suspect informed the deputy that it was indeed methamphetamine. A few syringes were also contained in the bag.
Also in the bag, out of plain sight, was a pair of brass knuckles. Behind the passenger seat, out of plain sight but within reach was a loaded .380 pistol. There was also a minor passenger in the vehicle.
Randall F. Rhodus was charged with Concealed Weapon Carry, Possession of Schedule I and II drugs. Possession of Blackjacks/Knuckles etc, Possession of Controlled Paraphernalia. Abuse or Neglect of a Child, and with Reckless Disregard for Life and Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor.

Wesley Allen Johnson Arrested on Multiple New Charges

A Scott County Deputy conducted a traffic stop on a vehicle for improper registration. The Deputy knew the driver to be Wesley Allen Johnson, and to having a revoked license that was DUI related. After stopping the vehicle he advised Johnson as to the reason why he stopped him. After the deputy ran a check on his information, dispatched advised him that the subject was wanted in Scott County and that the tag displayed came back as stolen out of Knoxville, TN.
With this knowledge the deputy again approached the vehicle with the intention of placing him under arrest, at which point Johnson informed the deputy that he could not go to jail. Johnson then put the vehicle in gear and pulled away. The deputy ran back to his vehicle and took off in pursuit of the fleeing vehicle.
During the chase, Johnson’s vehicle turned down several streets jumping one right lane completely and running through stop signs. Eventually the vehicle came to a stop when Johnson attempted to drive through a back yard and became stuck in the mud. Immediately Johnson jumped out of his vehicle and the deputy commanded him to stop or he would deploy his taser. Johnson unwisely ignored the request and continued past his truck at which point the deputy deployed his taser and was able to place him in cuffs.
In addition to the five capias facing Wesley Allen Johnson from Scott County he has added additional charges. These new charges include Felony Eluding, Reckless Driving, Revoked License Alcohol Related 3rd Offense, Petit Larceny 1st Offense, Attempt to Flee from a Law Enforcement Officer and Monument Intentional Damage of Less than $1,000.

Trevor Weedman Caught with Minor with Help From Mother

In nearby Harlan County, investigators say that Trevor Weedman 23, of LaBelle, Florida,  was apprehended in a hotel room with an underage female. After answering the door in only his briefs, police discovered the girl in bed. Weedman stated that the girl had told him she was 18. He was arrested and charged with sexual abuse and unlawful transaction with a minor.
The girl's mother went to the police with the compaint and then followed to the Quality Inn hotel with law enforcement where a housekeeping supervisor directed law enforcement to the suspect's room. Weedman was taken to the Harlan County Detention Center on a full cash bond of $20,000.

Proposed Work Zone SB1768

A Bill that would have made holding a communication device in your hand while driving illegal has failed to pass the House and Senate in Virginia. Citing changes that were made to it had lawmakers hesitant in passing it. Instead SB1768 has been introduced that would ban drivers from holding any device while driving through a work zone on any and all state roads. Northam now has thirty days to sign the proposed work zone bill which if passed would go into effect on July 1st, and violators could face a $250 fine.

Norton City Monthly Stats for March 2019

Total citations issued:66
Total warnings issued:76
Total miles driven:15,591
Total calls for Norton Police Dept:668
Total calls for Norton Fire Dept:21
Total calls for Norton Rescue Squad:97
Total 911 calls:388
Total crime reports taken by NPD Officers:71
Monthly total of calls: 2,445
Total warrants were served:38