Connie Stevens

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Selecting Virginia’s Judiciary

Former Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling & Former Rep. Rick Boucher  (center) co-chair the commission.

Former Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling & Former Rep. Rick Boucher (center) co-chair the commission.

The panel created by Governor McAuliffe to recommend changes to state ethics laws is tackling an issue that’s not typically associated with conflicts of interest:  the way that Virginia chooses judges.   The Governor’s Commission on Integrity and Public Confidence in State Government says the quality of the state’s judiciary overall is excellent.  But as Anne Marie Morgan reports, it also says the process of selecting judges is politicized and ineffective far too often.

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Two Topics from VA News: Virginia Wineries, Virginia’s Obsolete Courthouses Present Preservation Issues

VPAPnewAs more wineries are opening in Virginia grape production in the state is not keeping pace…and with many Commonwealth counties looking to replace obsolete courthouses issues of historic preservation may create complications. Those have been among the most read stories over the past week at the Virginia Public Access Project’s VaNews link on www.vpap.org. Fred Echols has more.

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Straight Street Reaching out to Child Victims

Straight Street LogoIn Virginia, underage sex trafficking is real. That’s why the Commonwealth has created new and stronger laws and methods of saving the children being victimized. With these efforts comes the bitter-sweet challenge of the rescue of child and then the recovery. Tab O’Neal reports.

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Fracking Regulations Reviewed

Fracking 01

File Photo

For years the use of hydraulic fracturing—or fracking—has been exclusive to Southwest Virginia, but some organizations and communities are vehemently opposed to it. Now, as companies are exploring more energy sources throughout the state, such as natural gas and shale, officials are feeling more pressure to amend regulations that govern the practice. Tommie McNeil has more from the State Capitol.

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Virginia & Israel: Open for Business

va-israel-flagsWhile Israeli leaders have voiced their displeasure about the Iran nuclear deal amidst already strained relations with the U.S., some have wondered if that dynamic has had any impact on Virginia’s business relationship with Israel.  As Tommie McNeil reports, the simple answer is:  business couldn’t be better. Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil reports.

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Chincoteague Pony Swim Celebrates 90 Years

Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge

Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge

This month marks the 90th year the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company’s Saltwater Cowboys run their annual pony swim. The wild ponies, whose Spanish lineage dates back centuries, are moved from Assateague and Chincoteague Islands, to the fire company’s carnival grounds where a selection of foals are auctioned off. But unless there’s a fire, rounding up cowboys is sometimes more difficult than ponies. Pamela D’Angelo reports.

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Va News for 07.20.15: Loud Colonial Times, More Valedictorians Than Ever

VPAPnewThe sounds of colonial life in Williamsburg may be getting a lot louder soon…and the term ‘valedictorian’ is taking on a whole new meaning for some high school students in Virginia and across the nation. Those have been among the most read stories over the past week at the Virginia Public Access Project’s VaNews link on vpap,org. More from Fred Echols.

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Richmond: Past and Present Confronted

Tommie Confed 01Those who say Virginia—and Richmond—are still fighting the Civil War need only look at current state policy changes and debates over the Confederate flag and monuments to back up their claims.

And now while the home of the Confederacy and former slave-trading hub will soon be home to one of the most watched sporting events in the world, some say that as the country discusses racial diversity and equality, the event’s organizers will be promoting and embracing the ugliest chapter in American history.  Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil reports.

 

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Medicinal, Musical Therapy

Image: Creative Commons

Image: Creative Commons

We often think of music as entertainment and/or art… but for people with certain language or cognitive difficulties, it can be far more than that. It can actually be a tool that rewires the brain… helping treat such conditions as Parkinson’s Disease, Huntington’s Disease, traumatic brain injuries, and strokes.  Rebecca Sheir takes us to Norfolk, to one of the only facilities in the country dedicated to bringing music and medicine together.

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VA’s Democratic Congressional Leaders Discuss Presidential Candidate Jim Webb

It’s been about two weeks, since former Virginia Democratic Senator Jim Webb announced on his website that he’s running for president. He’s not your everyday politician, and as Matt Laslo explains from Washington, he’s also not running a traditional campaign for the nation’s top job.

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US Appeals Court Upholds Former Governor’s Corruption Convictions

Robert "Bob" McDonnell, governor of Virginia, speaks at the Bloomberg Link Economic Summit in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, April 30, 2013. The Bloomberg Washington Summit gathers key administration officials, CEOs, governors, lawmakers, and economists to assess the economy and debate the path beyond the fiscal cliff. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Robert “Bob” McDonnell, governor of Virginia, speaks at the Bloomberg Link Economic Summit in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, April 30, 2013. The Bloomberg Washington Summit gathers key administration officials, CEOs, governors, lawmakers, and economists to assess the economy and debate the path beyond the fiscal cliff. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

What happens now that a 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel has rejected former Governor Bob McDonnell’s appeal of his federal corruption convictions?  Legal analysts say while it’s not clear whether he will be sent directly to jail for now, he still has a shot at beating his convictions—although it won’t be easy. Tommie McNeil has more from the State Capitol.

 

 

 

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VA News: Indian Tribe Wins Federal Recognition

VPAPnewA Virginia Indian tribe has won its long battle for official federal recognition…and there’s more controversy over a plan to widen one of the nation’s busiest highways. Those have been among the most read stories over the past week at the Virginia Public Access Project’s V-A News link on vpap.org.

Fred Echols reports.

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Redefining “Small” Business

What’s the definition of a small business? About a dozen stakeholder organizations along with Virginia’s Secretary of Commerce are in the process of redefining what it means in the Commonwealth. Reporter Tommie McNeil explains.

 

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Rallying for Rail Safety & Reform

Boom

Screenshot from the Weather Channel documentary, Boom: America’s Explosive Oil-by-Rail Problem

It’s been two years since several petroleum tank cars derailed and exploded in Lac-Megantic, claiming 47 lives and almost destroying the small Canadian town in eastern Quebec. Activists in Richmond are using the anniversary to not only commemorate the victims, but also draw attention to rail safety and reform. Kelsea Pieters has the story.

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American Rehab, Virginia: Mount Airy Plantation

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Northern Neck of Virginia is known for the plantation homes of the Washingtons and Lees. But just up the road in Warsaw, their close friend and fellow patriot John Tayloe II was a successful businessman whose Mount Airy Plantation has been the private home of the Tayloe family for more 250 years. Now, it’s latest generation of owners, John Tayloe Emery and his wife Catherine are opening it’s doors to the public in some unusual ways. Pamela D’Angelo reports.

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Filling the Void in Services to Veterans

VVCCA new wing at one of Virginia’s Veterans’ Care Centers aims to reduce the number of homeless veterans, while providing quality senior services for those with declining mental and physical health. Governor McAuliffe says a new state-funded expansion of a Richmond facility is just the beginning of several projects aimed at filling a huge void in veterans’ services and making the Commonwealth an invaluable military asset.   Tommie McNeil has more.

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Buena Vista Faces City Hall Foreclosure

Vista LinksLocal government leaders across Virginia are keeping an eye on a disagreement between the City of Buena Vista and ACA Financial Guaranty of New York. A letter the company sent to Buena Vista this week threatens imminent foreclosure on city hall and police headquarters because the city has stopped paying premiums on an insurance policy.  Fred Echols reports.

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Civil Rights Leaders Want Changes to Education Bill

6660120775_4cb8910db1_zFederal legislation to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 has come under fire from Virginia’s Legislative Black Caucus and a coalition of national and state civil rights organizations. The groups assert that both the U.S. House and Senate versions of the reauthorization fail to adequately protect vulnerable student populations. And as Virginia Public Radio’s Anne Marie Morgan reports, they’re calling on U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine to support amendments that they argue are essential.
 

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Export Import Bank Debate Divides GOP

Export Import Bank 01There’s a little known bank run by the federal government that just expired. It supports billions of dollars in economic activity across the commonwealth. Matt Laslo reports from Washington on where our delegation stands on the Export Import Bank and the potential impact its lapse will have on the state’s role in the global economy.

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Recreating the Silence of Owl Flight to Quiet Turbine Blades

Flying Owl

Photo Credit: Virginia Tech

Neighbors of turbine farms often complain about the noise they make.  Now a Virginia Tech team of researchers has come up with a way they say will dampen that sound.  Beverly Amsler has the story.

 

 

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Rethinking Redistricting in Virginia

vedistrictsDuring the last election in Virginia, fewer than eight percent of eligible voters showed up to cast a ballot, perhaps because only 18 districts had contested primaries.  In most places, lawmakers ran unopposed.  Critics say that’s because the legislature drew boundaries to ensure that incumbents could keep their seats, so citizens figure there’s no point in voting.  Now, however, there are signs that situation could change as Sandy Hausman reports.

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VA’s Governor Praises SCOTUS Ruling

supreme_courtReactions from Virginia leaders came swiftly following the Supreme Court’s ruling that upheld Affordable Care Act subsidies for consumers who bought health insurance plans through the federal marketplace. But how swiftly will the Commonwealth—with no healthcare exchange of its own—act in its wake?  Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil reports on reactions from the Attorney General who argued for the provision … and a lawmaker who is also a doctor who opposed Medicaid expansion.

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Renaming the Redskins

flickr user Keith Allison Photo: Creative Commons

flickr user Keith Allison
Photo: Creative Commons

The Washington Redskins were back in court this week, hoping to overturn a U.S. Patent Office decision that canceled the team’s trademark, because some find it offensive.  That controversy prompted business students at Virginia Commonwealth University to research and choose new names for DC’s professional football team.

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Dismal Outlook on VA’s Projected Cancer Rates

cancer-390322_640Prior to 2012, cardiovascular disease was the leading cause of death in Virginia, but now cancer is the Commonwealth’s leading killer. To help lawmakers craft state policies for the future, the Joint Commission on Health Care wanted to find out what the projected cancer rates will be over the next few decades.   And as Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil reports, the outlook seems rather dismal. 

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Mountains of Music Homecoming

mntsofmusic_feature-copy-270x270The Crooked Road’s Mountains of Music Homecoming is a nine-day festival staged in nineteen counties and four cities across Southwest Virginia. Events range from Barter Theatre performances to canoe and snorkeling trips to tours of an alpaca farm. But at its heart, the Homecoming is about music.  Tim Thornton reports.

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Initiatives to Combat Veterans’ Homelessness

Homeless VeteranSeveral years and one administration ago, Virginia Public Radio highlighted some of the challenges pertaining to veterans’ homelessness, and since then new leaders have vowed to do all they can to eliminate it within the Commonwealth. As Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil reports, a lot of progress has been made in just a short period of time.

 

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Lays Hardware Center for the Arts

Lays HardwareThe Crooked Road’s Mountains of Music Homecoming, running throughout the week, spotlights the music, environment and culture of Southwest Virginia, including some venues that do that work all the time. Tim Thornton reports.

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Leaders Consider Integrity in State Government

integritycommission (1)While the General Assembly passed legislation earlier this year to toughen Virginia’s ethics laws, a gubernatorial panel insists that those reforms are only the beginning.  At its June meeting, the Governor’s Commission on Integrity and Public Confidence in State Government held a wide-ranging discussion about what to target next for reform.  And as Anne Marie reports, a few of the topics that were bandied about may not be politically popular.

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Boosting Cyber-Security

Security concept: blue opened padlock on digital background, 3d render

Security concept: blue opened padlock on digital background, 3d render

With potentially millions of Virginians victimized by the recent cyber-attack against federal employees, state lawmakers want to expedite the formation of public-private collaborations that would stimulate research and development in cyber-security. Now a Joint Commission on Technology and Science panel agrees—and wants to help bring the best minds in the field together.  And as Anne Marie Morgan reports, both higher education institutions and companies are willing and eager to make that happen.

 

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Ralph Stanley Museum and Traditional Mountain Music Center

FullSizeRenderThe Crooked Road’s Mountains of Music Homecoming is a nine-day festival staged in nineteen counties and four cities across Southwest Virginia. But for some people, including Ralph Stanley Museum director Tammy Hill, the work of preserving mountain music and mountain culture goes on all the time.  Tim Thornton reports.

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VA News: Wildlife Habitats in the News

VPAPnewA government agency has moved to protect thousands of square miles of ocean bottom habitat – including areas off the Virginia coast – from damage by commercial fishing operations…..and a thriving elk population in southwest Virginia has created complications for state wildlife managers. Those have been among the most read stories over the past week at the Virginia Public Access Project’s Va News link on vpap.org. Fred Echols has more.

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Democrats Sue Over Voter ID Law

wooden gavel and books on wooden table,on brown background

wooden gavel and books on wooden table,on brown background

Reactions vary to a Democratic lawsuit challenging Virginia’s voter photo ID law—based primarily on which side of the political spectrum the stakeholders fall.  Democrats argue that this is another attempt to disenfranchise minority and other voters, while the GOP and the law’s chief sponsor say it’s designed to protect the integrity of the voting system. But as Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil reports, political observers are wondering how this lawsuit will progress—and what’s the best course of action for the state’s Democratic Attorney General.

 

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Virginia Cavaliers Open College World Series With Weekend Victory

The University of Virginia baseball team was so close to winning the national championship last year.  The Cavaliers are back in Omaha this year to try it again and they’re off to a good start. Greg Echlin reports.

 

 

 

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Reforming VA’s Preschool Initiative

A number of studies suggest that young children who enter pre-kindergarten programs develop their learning skills more effectively than those who don’t. That’s one reason why state lawmakers recently decided to examine and reform the Virginia Preschool Initiative.  And as Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil reports, one of the underlying issues is making sure that low-income children have access to—and take advantage of— those programs.

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Rural Hospitals at Risk: The Walk to Washington

Rural HospitalVirginia’s Deputy Secretary of Health and Human Resources lends an ear to a grassroots organization protesting the possible closure of 283 rural hospitals across the country, including the Commonwealth. As Tommie McNeil reports, Dr. Jennifer Lee said it’s yet another reason why she believes Medicaid expansion could be the answer.

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June Primary Results

Election ResultsThere were some electoral upsets yesterday as Virginia voters in 48 localities cast their ballots in state and local primaries. Among the most contested were 18 elections to nominate candidates for the General Assembly—including challenges to nine incumbent Senators and Delegates. And as Virginia Public Radio’s Anne Marie Morgan reports, several incumbent lawmakers will not be returning to the General Assembly.

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National Defense Authorization Act: What’s At Stake for VA

jetsSenate Democratic leaders are hoping to filibuster a bill this week that’s vital to Virginia’s servicemen and women and the state’s defense industry. Capitol Hill reporter Matt Laslo has the story on how Virginia’s two senators are planning to buck their party leaders.

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VaNews: Self-Driving Cars, Passenger Rail Service

VPAPnewVirginia is making a move to embrace the future of train travel as plans for faster passenger rail service between Richmond and DC are considered… and Google’s self-driving cars will soon be seen among the hordes of vehicles packing the roads in Northern Virginia. Those are among the most read stories over the past week on the Virginia Public Access Project’s VaNews link at vpap.org.  Fred Echols has more.

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Executions & Secrecy: FOIA Case

Execution DrugsVirginia Supreme Court justices will soon be deciding on a case that could have a significant impact on what state officials can withhold—even when a Freedom of Information Act request is submitted.  Although this case began with one lawmaker asking about how executions are carried out, he also discovered that agencies may have found a way around disclosing pertinent information. Virginia Public Radio’s Tommie McNeil reports.

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VA Supreme Court Hears Appeal on Sweet Briar College Closing

Sweet Briar HouseThe women of the troubled Sweet Briar College say the institution IS capable of sustaining itself—and all it needs is a second chance. As Tommie McNeil reports, they’re hoping that chance comes in the form of a ruling from the state’s highest court to grant an injunction and allow the college to stay open while school administrators sort out legal and financial matters.

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Governor Declares VA’s Menhaden Harvest Level

McAuliffe OmegaLast month fisheries managers from Florida to Maine voted for a ten percent increase in commercial harvests of menhaden. The oily fish is loved by bald eagles, osprey and other fish and is used along the Atlantic as bait to catch tastier fare like lobster and crab. At a rainy ceremony today, Governor Terry McAuliffe threw his support behind Omega Protein, the last fish rendering plant on the East Coast. Pamela D’Angelo reports.

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VA Boasts Record Setting Tourism Revenue

VA is for loversTourists visiting Virginia last year generated a record-setting 22-billion dollars in revenue. That’s according to the latest state numbers, which also indicate that the tourism industry has become the fifth-largest private employer in the state. And as Virginia Public Radio’s Anne Marie Morgan reports, state officials say the Commonwealth’s global exposure will soon grow even more.

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VA Supreme Court Rules on Suppressed Evidence

Scales of JusticeVirginia’s Supreme Court has handed down a ruling that could help people wrongfully convicted of crimes. Sandy Hausman has that story.

 

 

 

 

 

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Accelerated Efforts to Reduce Energy Consumption

(l-r) Policy analyst Borna Kazarooni and Chief Energy  Efficiency Officer Hayes Framme discuss energy metrics.

(l-r) Policy analyst Borna Kazarooni and Chief Energy Efficiency Officer Hayes Framme discuss energy metrics.

Governor McAuliffe has accelerated the timetable set in a 2007 state law that requires a voluntary 10 percent reduction in state energy consumption—by moving its target date to 2020. Now an expert panel established to help achieve that goal has concluded that it needs additional data just to clarify how that should be measured. And as Virginia Public Radio’s Anne Marie Morgan reports, it also says the responsibility does not just rest with electric utilities to boost their own conservation efforts.

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How to Closer A College: SCHEV Outlines Policy

Closed SignOver the last several years, Sweet Briar College, Virginia Intermont, and Saint Paul’s College have announced that they were closing-and now state officials are engaging in a broad discussion about what recourse families have when that happens.
Tommie McNeil reports, while students would rather not have to make the adjustment, they do have options when such a development occurs.

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Opening the Gate: Farmers on Fencing

Fencing 01For two years, the state of Virginia has been begging cattle farmers to keep animals out of streams on their property – offering to pay the full cost of fencing to prevent pollution of rivers and, ultimately, the Chesapeake Bay.  Sandy Hausman reports on why some have embraced the program and others have walked away.

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Modest Harvest Boost for Menhaden

menhaden 02This week, East Coast fisheries managers voted to increase by 10 percent the catch for menhaden. The fish is used as bait, processed for vitamin supplements and food for fish farms. The two-year increase will give back half of the 20 percent harvest reduction taken in 2012. Pamela D’Angelo reports.

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Panel Studying ABC Structure Gets to Work

A panel appointed by Governor McAuliffe to review the activities of Alcoholic Beverage Control agents spent hours yesterday scrutinizing the department’s structure, how agents are trained, and recent public safety statistics. Prompted by a public outcry over the forceful arrest of a 20-year-old UVa student who suffered a gash on his head, the panel is tasked with recommending improvements–and whether or not ABC agents should retain their law enforcement authority. Anne Marie Morgan has more details about the panel’s initial findings.

The agency is already planning re-training sessions, which will include responses to active resistance and use of force, cultural diversity, and communication with minors and young adults. The panel will hold additional meetings before making its final recommendations.

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Blessing of the Fleet

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEvery spring, fishing communities across the nation open the new season with a blessing of the fleet. The historic town of Reedville, Virginia has celebrated the tradition for 45 years. Pamela D’Angelo reports.

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Virginia’s Rising Prison Rates

PrisonThinkStockPhotosWith 2.3 million Americans now behind bars, many states are looking at alternatives to jail time for those who commit non-violent crimes, but Virginia continues to imprison large numbers of people. Sandy Hausman reports.

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