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Facebook needs regulation, experts say, but they see roadblocks



WASHINGTON — Congress should enact regulations to curb harmful practices by social media companies like Facebook, cybersecurity, and privacy experts say. But they are skeptical that lawmakers will act and if they do, whether the pace of policy can parallel the ever-changing technology.

“It’s clear that some of these companies can’t always do the right thing on their own and need a regulatory stick to help them make better decisions,” Amanda Lenhart, a lead researcher at the Data & Society Research Institute, told Capital News Service.

Lawmakers appear to be moving toward a bipartisan consensus that some form of regulation of Facebook and other social media platforms is needed, especially after Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen revealed last week how her former employer allegedly manipulates its technology to focus on its growth rather than protect users from harmful content.

Facebook itself is publicly embracing regulation, at least in theory.

“We need greater transparency, so the systems that we have in place, …they should be held to account, if necessary, by regulation, so that people can match what our systems say they’re supposed to do from what actually happens,” Nick Clegg, Facebook’s vice president of global affairs, said on CNN Sunday.

But industry observers say regulating Facebook would be complicated and has potential pitfalls. In any case, such a step would require both technical knowledge that Congress may lack and a drive to overcome inertia, they said.

“They have been trying to pass comprehensive privacy reform for over five years and it hasn’t happened yet,” said Dr. Jessica Vitak, associate professor at the University of Maryland’s College of Information Studies.

In testimony last week before the Senate’s Commerce, Science, and Transportation subcommittee on consumer protection, Haugen revealed that Facebook’s leadership is aware of the dangers its platform’s algorithm poses but said the company is willing to sacrifice users’ safety over profit.

An exchange between Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kansas, and the subcommittee’s chairman, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut, underscored bipartisan concerns over the impact of Facebook and other social media platforms are having on children and teens.

Moran suggested the pair should put their differences aside to take on Facebook together.

Blumenthal responded: “Our differences are very minor, or they seem very minor in the face of the revelations that we have now seen, so I am hoping we can move forward.”

In March, Rep. Tom Malinowski, D-New Jersey, re-introduced a bill in the House called “Protecting Americans from Dangerous Algorithms Act.” The legislation would hold social media platforms accountable for the content that leads users to harmful behavior offline. Algorithms are computer calculations that platforms use to determine what content users see.

So far, the House has not acted on the measure.

Haugen repeatedly recommended during her testimony that a federal oversight agency be appointed to regulate tech companies like her former employer, Facebook.

Vitak agreed with Haugen that there are implementable changes that could and should be made related to how technology companies are governed in the U.S.

A new agency could immediately implement “soft interventions,” such as requiring social media platforms to force users to click on a link before resharing that link, according to Haugen.

An oversight committee in Congress, however, could be a problem, warned Dr. Richard Forno, assistant director at the Center for Cybersecurity at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Many lawmakers are far behind the learning curve on technology, he said.

“You can’t have decrepit lawmakers who don’t understand the internet and think it’s this big scary place holding hearings and asking questions as everybody in the room rolls their eyes,” Forno said. “You have congressmen and senators who have never sent emails yet they’re on subcommittees overseeing parts of the internet.”

While some new laws governing social media and minors might be passed by Congress, anything technology-specific is in danger of being outdated, he said.

The more realistic options for regulation include creating a new agency that provides oversight or pumping more resources into the Federal Trade Commission, the agency most responsible for protecting consumer privacy, experts said.

“This is the kind of thing that takes specific industry expertise, it’s the job for a regulatory agency and not a congressional committee,” said Dr. Mark MacCarthy, adjunct professor at Georgetown University and a non-resident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

Continuously updating regulations will be a challenge, said Dr. Joyram Chakraborty, associate professor at Towson University’s Department of Computer and Information Sciences.

“The policy created will have to be revised within six to nine months because technologies are going to change,” Chakraborty said.

Children are not the only ones at risk though, according to Chakraborty.

Anyone who does not fully understand how to use the technology faces potential harm from social media platforms, he said.

Lenhart has spent much of her career studying young people and their use of technology.

If regulations are not created thoughtfully, there will be downstream consequences that aren’t actually beneficial, she told CNS.

Such consequences include creating regulatory dead zones, imposing heavy restrictions on tech companies who in turn, refuse to build any protections at all, Lenhart said.

Some critics of social media platforms want Congress to revisit a provision of federal law, known as Section 230, that currently shields social media platforms from liability for content posted by third parties.

“Most of America doesn’t know about Section 230 and if you pushed a lot of members of Congress, they wouldn’t know either,” Blumenthal said.

In March, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg submitted prepared testimony to the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s subcommittee on consumer protection, proposing changes to that provision.

Platforms should be required to have “systems in place” for identifying unlawful content but they should not be liable if they miss something, Zuckerberg said. He did not testify in person.

Haugen told lawmakers that she strongly supports changing Section 230, but she warned reforms must be much broader.

“The severity of this crisis demands that we break out of our previous regulatory frames,” Haugen said.

There might be some momentum in Congress, but it’s counterbalanced by concerns over protecting free speech, said Dr. Anupam Joshi, director at the Center for Cybersecurity at UMBC.

“On one hand you could argue that large companies like Facebook are sort of getting away with stuff behind Section 230,” Joshi said. “On the other hand, if you repeal it, Facebook is still a behemoth.”

Haugen tweeted on Monday that she will brief the Facebook Oversight Board on what she learned working at the company.

The Oversight Board, consisting of 20 independent experts helping Facebook make content policy decisions, posted on its website that the meeting would take place in the “coming weeks.”

Capital News Service

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Fauquier Health Expands Nursing Using Global Approach



It is no secret that hospitals have faced a major increase in the amount of labor costs resulting from the pandemic. This increase in cost could especially be seen when working through contracted labor and staffing firms. Since the start of the pandemic, Fauquier Health has prioritized finding creative solutions to address the shortage of healthcare workers and as such has expanded its nursing care to include a diverse array of registered international nurses.

On November 15, 2023, the health system held a reception to welcome our new international nurses to Fauquier Health.

In July 2023, Fauquier Health officially welcomed eight international registered nurses from the Philippines to the team including: Cherilyn Valenzuela; Joanne Lagura; Kathyrine Sarzuelo; Suellen Olaco; Dave Galimba; Dorothea Joaquin; Ma Carmela Danao; and Arissa Eusebio. The arrival of these new nurses has been met with excitement and relief. Now five months into their 3-year contracts, these nurses are fulfilling vital and valuable bed-side care across many departments of Fauquier Health including women’s services, skilled nursing, medical/surgical, the emergency department, and more.

“The recruitment of international nurses enriches our team, while our ongoing support for our local colleges reinforces our commitment to the communities we serve,” shared Linda Parnell, Interim-Chief Nursing Officer at Fauquier Health.

One of these new nurses, Suellen Olaco, RN, shared: “As a nurse, I have the opportunity to touch peoples’ lives in many aspects. What I love most is to help people recover from their illnesses and witness their smile in achieving a healthy state of being.”

When asking Dorothea Joaquin, RN, what the best part of her experience at Fauquier has been so far, she commented, “Meeting and working with my colleagues. This is the best place I have worked so far.” She went on to say, “I have enjoyed meeting new friends and fellow Kababayans whom we can call our family away from home. Thank you to Fauquier Health for making our dreams a reality.”

“I am excited to welcome these new nurses to our community and to our Fauquier Health team,” shared Rebecca Segal, Chief Executive Officer at Fauquier Health.

In 2024, Fauquier Health plans to continue expanding upon this new global nursing approach and welcome six more international nurses to the team. For more information on recruitment and career opportunities at Fauquier Health, visit

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Frankie Stamps Sees Dramatic Results From Fauquier Health Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation’s LSVT BIG Program



Frankie Stamps, local community member, has an impressive resume of talents from pickleball and juggling, to underwater diving and over 2,000 skydiving jumps. Saying he tries to stay active is an understatement. What most may not know upon first meeting Frankie, is that he has also been living with Parkinson’s disease for just over 10 years now. After initially being diagnosed with the disease in 2013, Frankie quickly started to understand there are two sides of treatment for Parkinson’s – half is medication, and the other half is exercise.

Frankie Stamps.  Photos/Fauquier Health

Upon initial diagnosis, Frankie was introduced to the LSVT BIG exercise program. “The BIG Program consists of a very specific set of exercises that you are supposed to do twice a day in the AM and then again in the PM,” Frankie shared. “The exercises focus on big movements that are larger than life, so that when you do real life things, your movements are a bit more normal.” Frankie shared that those suffering with Parkinson’s are affected in different ways. For instance, some may have tremors that start on one side and eventually end up traveling to the other side, whereas some don’t experience tremors at all. He elaborated that a great deal of those living with the disease tend to experience a decrease in muscle movements and posture, almost as if they are shrinking in on themselves. According to Frankie, “When you retool your mind to do big exercises and force yourself to take big steps, it becomes seemingly more natural throughout the day. Eventually, this becomes your new normal.”

Several years later, in December of 2016, Frankie told his neurologist he was ready to take a refresher course to fine tune some of those skills he had once learned. However, due to the long commute, he was hoping to find a location closer to Warrenton. Frankie was referred to contact Fauquier Health’s Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation team, located right in the town of Warrenton. Linda Wise, his therapist at the time, worked with Frankie for a duration of about four weeks until he completed the program. Frankie completed 16 total visits.

Fast forward to the current year, 2023, it became apparent to Frankie that he was ready to take another refresher course. After discussing it with his neurologist, he immediately called Fauquier Health’s Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation department. At first, he wasn’t sure if he would still have the opportunity to work with the same therapist as he had in 2017. To his surprise, Linda was once again going to be his therapist. “She quickly remembered me because I teach people to juggle and I tried to teach her six years ago,” he joked. “She told me I haven’t really been practicing how to juggle. I told her, I haven’t really been practicing my BIG exercises, so I guess we are both in deep water.”

The difference this time around is that Frankie is actually working with two therapists – Linda Wise and Leslie Fidler. As LSVT certified therapists, Linda and Leslie apply a level of consistency and discipline to their techniques to ensure effectiveness. Linda is an occupational and physical therapist who is certified in the LSVT BIG exercise program. Leslie is a speech therapist who is certified in the LSVT LOUD program. Similar to BIG, LOUD is a separate therapy that focuses on increasing the volume of your speech and focusing on the pronunciations of your words. Frankie shared that the two therapies often cross over. For example, he found that others had a hard time hearing him when he spoke. Leslie was able to identify that it was not only related to speech, but the direction of speech. Frankie has been working on retooling the way he speaks to others by consciously making sure he is looking up or in the direction of the other person. Sometimes, those living with Parkinson’s tend to look downward which can muffle the volume of their voice. Frankie said, “The care has been excellent. My wife is so happy over the fact that I am standing up straighter and that I am doing a lot better.”

Parkinson’s “BIG for Life” Exercise Classes

BIG for Life Community Exercise is an exercise program led by therapists certified in the LSVT (Lee Silverman Voice Treatment) technique for Parkinson’s Disease. The classes are available for those living with Parkinson’s Disease to complete targeted exercises and renew their enthusiasm for completing at home exercises. The bigger the movements, the better. To learn more or sign up for a class in the LSVT BIG or LOUD Programs, call Fauquier Health Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation at 540.316.2680 or visit

Fauquier Health Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation is part of the Fauquier Health Orthopedics and Spine service line. Fauquier Health is nationally recognized as a Center of Excellence for Joint Replacement by The Joint Commission.

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Smithfield® Supports Communities During Commonwealth Clash with Donation of 260,000 Servings of Protein



This week, Smithfield® showed that its sponsorship of the Commonwealth Clash goes beyond just supporting athletics through its donation of much-needed protein to food banks in the communities surrounding Virginia Tech and the University of Virginia (UVA). As a part of Smithfield’s Helping Hungry Homes initiative, the brand donation provides 65,000 pounds of protein to the local communities supported by Feeding Southwest Virginia and Blue Ridge Area Food Bank to aid in hunger relief for the region.

Smithfield representatives presented the donations during two events at each respective food bank, highlighting the importance of center-of-the-plate protein donations for residents of these Virginia communities. The brand also showed appreciation for the staff and volunteers at each food bank by bringing its Bacon Bus to provide lunch.

“These donations, as a part of the Commonwealth Clash, bring these two universities — Virginia Tech and University of Virginia — together in the most meaningful way possible,” said Jonathan Toms, senior community development manager for Smithfield Foods. “Supporting Feeding Southwest Virginia and Blue Ridge Area Food Bank impacts these communities greatly, and we thank them for their continuous efforts to provide relief to the residents of our home state.”

Since the 2014-2015 academic year, Smithfield has sponsored the Smithfield Commonwealth Clash — the rivalry between Virginia Tech and the University of Virginia across all school-sponsored sports. Throughout the year, the company looks to support the communities surrounding Virginia Tech and UVA.

Feeding Southwest Virginia alone channels over $33 million in food and groceries through 380 partner feeding programs in its 26-county, nine-city region. The Blue Ridge Area Food Bank serves those living with hunger across 25 counties and eight cities on either side of the Blue Ridge. With the help of more than 400 programs and pantry partners, it provides nutritious food to well over 125,000 people each month. But protein continues to be one of the biggest needs for local food banks because of costs and limited resources.

“Receiving this donation from Smithfield brings unsurmountable support in alleviating hunger for Southwest Virginia,” said Pamela Irvine, president and CEO for Feeding Southwest Virginia. “We are thankful for the partnership with the high demand for food assistance in our area.”

“Smithfield has our gratitude for this generous donation,” said Michael McKee, CEO of the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank. “This will provide much-needed center-of-the-plate protein to the residents of our community and continue to provide hope to our neighbors.”

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Lawmakers Try Again to Set a Vote on Puerto Rico’s Status



WASHINGTON – A coalition of senators, House members, and prominent Puerto Rican politicians is pressing Congress to pass legislation that would set a vote on the future of the island territory.

“It’s been more than 100 years since Puerto Rican residents became U.S. citizens … well over 300,000 Puerto Ricans have served in our nation’s military,” Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-New Mexico, sponsor of the Senate bill, said last week. “I think we should all agree that Americans living in Puerto Rico deserve an overdue permanent and democratic answer on their political status.”

The Puerto Rico Status Act authorizes the island territory of over 3 million residents to hold a federally-binding referendum to choose among three options: statehood, independence, or sovereignty in free association with the United States.

Heinrich’s bill is companion legislation to a House bill introduced in April by Rep. Raúl Grijalva, D-Arizona, Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Maryland, and Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González-Colón, R-Puerto Rico.

“For far too long, the people of Puerto Rico have been deprived of the self-determination that they and all people deserve,” Hoyer told Capital News Service. “We owe it to Puerto Ricans to bring an end to their island’s 124-year-old status as a U.S. territory and to grant them control over their island’s political future.”

As House majority leader, Hoyer brought a bill to the House floor in December 2022 to set a status vote for Puerto Rico; it passed the House but was not considered by the Senate.

“I remain committed to working with Puerto Rico’s elected officials and community leaders to ensure that the people of Puerto Rico have full autonomy and democratic control over their status,” Hoyer said.

Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Maryland, is among 21 other senators co-sponsoring the Senate measure.

“The United States is grounded in the principle that every citizen has the right to self-determination and representation in government,” Van Hollen told CNS. “While we are always working to reach this ideal, one way we continue to fall short is in denying the people of Puerto Rico these core American rights.”

Puerto Rico has been an American territory since 1898, when the United States acquired the island during the Spanish-American War.

The island’s residents are U.S. citizens but do not enjoy some of the same rights as residents of the 50 states, such as voting for president. Puerto Rico’s resident commissioner serves in the House but lacks voting power.

Critics say the territorial status has often resulted in Puerto Rico not receiving ample attention or much-needed aid when natural disasters strike, most notably when Hurricane Maria struck the island in 2017.

“When I go to some parts of Puerto Rico that are without power in the wake of natural disasters, I say if this happened in Connecticut, there’d be riots in the streets,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut. “It is unfair and unjust for the people of Puerto Rico to be treated as second-class citizens. Colonial status must end.”

The latest congressional effort to get a vote on Puerto Rico’s status faces strong headwinds: nine previous bills and resolutions dating back to 1998 previously failed.

Puerto Ricans have voted in six referendums since 1967 on the issue of their political status. The past three referendums in 2012, 2017, and 2020 showed a majority support for statehood, but the issue faces partisan roadblocks in Congress, which ultimately decides if the island can become a state.

When the issue was voted on in the House in December of last year, the vote was 233-191. All Democrats but only 16 Republicans voted in favor of allowing Puerto Rico to vote on its future. The bill died as a new Congress was sworn in a month later.

In the first 70 years of American independence, debates on admitting new states to the Union revolved around whether they would be slave or free. Today, that debate is focused on whether a new state would be a Democratic or Republican state and send delegations representing those parties, which could flip the balance of power in the House or Senate or both.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, said in 2020 that statehood for Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia was part of the Democrats’ “radical” agenda. McConnell and other Republicans believe the admission of the two would send four Democratic senators to Washington, giving the Democratic Party a powerful advantage in the closely divided Senate.

Senators at last week’s press conference rejected that argument.

“Oftentimes when states come in and everyone assumes they are always going to be Republican or they are always going to be Democrat, and then the voters prove themselves to be independent,” Heinrich said. “We’ve seen that with Hawaii, we’ve seen that with Alaska, and I think this is about being true to the will of the people.”

The senator acknowledged that the path from territory to state can be arduous.

“It took us 50 New Mexico statehood bills to get there – many, many decades before we finally became the 47th state of the United States,” Heinrich said.

Some senators said they had constituents deeply interested in the future of Puerto Rico.

“We are home to more than 288,000 Connecticut residents of Puerto Rican descent, the highest density of Puerto Rican heritage anywhere in the country,” said Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Connecticut.

The sponsors see the legislation as the best attempt yet to bring the issue of Puerto Rico’s future to a resolution.

“This bill is a compromise between members of the House that sit on different sides of the question of final status, but who agree that now is the time to make that decision,” Murphy said.

Puerto Rico Gov. Pedro Pierluisi said the 22 senators on the bill was “the highest number of original co-sponsors in history.”

“That bodes well for our fight for equality,” said the governor, who faces a challenge from González-Colón in next year’s Progressive New Party gubernatorial primary. The PNP is pro-statehood.

Besides Hoyer, cosponsors on the House Puerto Rico bill include Maryland Democratic Reps. David Trone, Jamie Raskin, and John Sarbanes.


Capital News Service

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Cash Bail Policies are Under Fresh Scrutiny



States can’t figure out what to do about cash bail.

The system — in which an arrested suspect pays cash to avoid sitting in jail until their court date and gets the money back when they appear — is deeply entrenched in the nation’s history as a way to ensure defendants return to face justice.

But cash bail is undergoing a reckoning as policymakers debate its disproportionate effects on underserved communities and people with low incomes who sometimes can’t afford bail — as well as just how much the system truly keeps the public safe.

This year, some states such as Illinois and jurisdictions such as Los Angeles County in California and Cuyahoga County in Ohio scaled back their bail systems, even eliminating cash bail entirely for low-level offenses in some cases.

While Virginia studies cash bail alternatives, local prosecutors and judges increasingly take reform into their own hands

Policymakers in other places, meanwhile, are moving in the opposite direction.

Republican lawmakers in at least 14 states — including Georgia, Indiana, Missouri, and Wisconsin — introduced about 20 bills this year aimed at increasing the number of non-bailable offenses and either encouraging or requiring judges to consider defendants’ criminal records when setting bail, according to analysis by The Associated Press.

And in New York state, where changes to curtail the use of bail took effect in 2020, lawmakers have made several rounds of rollbacks amid concerns about rising crime rates.

Some bail policy advocates argue that these changes may contribute to racial and socioeconomic discrimination by relying on one’s ability to post bail and undermine the idea that those accused of a crime are presumed innocent until proven guilty.

“There’s no single answer to effective bail reform,” Meghan Guevara, executive partner with the Pretrial Justice Institute, a criminal justice advocacy group, told Stateline.

Measures to increase the use of cash bail or to include certain factors in assessing bail eligibility saw varying levels of success. In Wisconsin, voters approved a state constitutional amendment in April allowing judges to consider factors such as a defendant’s past convictions and the need to protect the public from bodily harm in “violent crime” cases.

Missouri Republican Gov. Mike Parson signed legislation in July that requires judges who are setting bail to first consider factors such as a suspect’s flight risk, potential danger to others, past convictions for violent crimes, and previous failures to appear in court.

In Indiana, lawmakers in April passed their first swipe at Senate Joint Resolution 1, which would amend language in the state’s constitution and enable judges to deny bail to those they consider a “substantial risk.” The bill must pass again in 2025 before appearing on the ballot in 2026.

In Georgia, lawmakers considered legislation that sought to impose cash or property bail for dozens of additional crimes, including misdemeanors. It failed due to disagreements between the House and Senate, but Republican state Rep. Houston Gaines, who sponsored the measure in the House, expects the bill to pass in the next legislative session.

Gaines, in an emailed statement, said: “Eliminating cash bail has been a disaster in places it’s been tried — even New York has reversed course on some of its radical policies. We can’t afford to create a revolving door of criminals who don’t show up for court and victimize other individuals.”

Political backlash and rollbacks

Between 2017 and 2019, a bipartisan movement for changes to bail systems gained momentum at both the local and state levels. Some states, such as New Mexico, New Jersey and Kentucky, sharply curtailed their cash bail systems by almost entirely eliminating cash bail, expanding release programs and moving toward risk-based assessments to determine pretrial release.

In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic strained crowded jails and detention centers, and agencies eased bail systems to reduce exposure.

Between 2019 and 2020, homicide rates increased 30% — one of the largest year-over-year increases on record, according to data released by the FBI and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Homicide gun deaths also surged 35% in 2020, the largest year-over-year increase recorded in more than 25 years. Despite these increases, the overall violent crime rate in the country did not increase during the pandemic, according to federal crime surveys.

In California and New York, policymakers rolled back their pre-pandemic changes to cash bail.

“Fears about public safety are in many ways greatly overblown and misplaced,” said Sharlyn Grace, a senior policy adviser at the law office of the Cook County Public Defender in Illinois. “It is exceedingly rare for someone who’s released pretrial to be arrested and accused of a new offense that involves violence against another person.”

A report released by the New York City Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice in 2021 found that about 95% of individuals arrested and released between January and September 2020 were not rearrested while awaiting trial, and there was very little difference in rearrest rates before and after bail reform in the state.

New York had passed a sweeping overhaul in 2019, largely ending the use of money bail for misdemeanors and lower-level felonies, with a focus on imposing the “least restrictive” release conditions. The state’s bail law has undergone multiple rounds of revisions since then, primarily driven by calls from Republicans to amend or completely reverse the law.

In early 2020, New York expanded bail options, particularly in cases involving harm to a person or property. In 2022, the state further broadened the definition of “harm” and clarified factors judges must consider, such as criminal history, when setting release conditions.

This year, negotiations over additional changes led to the removal of the requirement for the “least restrictive” release, a proposal announced by Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul last spring.

Some state Democrats and criminal justice advocacy groups have strongly criticized these changes, arguing that the most recent revisions represent a rollback in progress.

“These rollbacks have had a serious effect on our pretrial population, and we’re still seeing the same kinds of wealth-based and racial inequities that were the drivers of bail reform in the first instance,” said Jullian Harris-Calvin, the director of the Greater Justice New York program under the Vera Institute of Justice, a national nonprofit criminal justice advocacy group.

Fairfax judge rules cash bond unconstitutional

Money bail remains prohibited for most misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies in New York, with some exceptions related to rearrested individuals.

In 2018, then-California Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, signed Senate Bill 10 into law, which would have made the Golden State the first to end the use of cash bail for all detained suspects awaiting trials. The American Bail Coalition, a nonprofit trade association representing the bail industry, pushed back hard, organizing Californians Against the Reckless Bail Scheme to lead a repeal effort through a veto referendum.

Voters repealed the measure in 2020. Some who opposed the law said the proposed risk assessment tool — which generally measures factors such as flight risk, public safety risk and criminal history — could potentially cause more harm than good, said Allie Preston, a senior policy analyst for criminal justice reform with the left-leaning policy institute Center for American Progress. Some bail policy advocates say using risk assessment tools in the pretrial process may contribute to more racial and socioeconomic inequities.

Jeff Clayton, the executive director of the American Bail Coalition, said in an interview that risk-based assessments are problematic because “there’s no scientific way to predict pretrial risk in terms of a particular defendant.” Clayton added that setting a bail amount offers more flexibility, which may be beneficial in some cases.

“The question is, can we engineer the alternate system better than the existing system of monetary bonds, posting bonds and staying in jail that’s existed throughout history?” Clayton said. “There’s reasons to suggest that we can’t do a better job.”

Although statewide change to California’s bail system failed, a few jurisdictions in the state have introduced other changes to their bail systems. Santa Clara County and the city of San Francisco both use risk assessment tools and offer other services to help those released pretrial return for their court dates and address needs, such as transportation.

The Los Angeles County Superior Court implemented a zero cash bail system in October. Under the new bail protocols, those charged with nonviolent or less serious crimes will be detained before arraignment only if a judge determines they present a threat to the community or a potential flight risk instead of whether they are capable of posting bail. In cases of violent and serious felonies, however, the bail system remains intact.

“[Los Angeles County’s new] bail policy is a really important step towards promoting safety and justice and away from a system where the rich are able to buy their freedom and the poor languish in jail,” said Claire Simonich, the associate director of Vera California, an initiative under the Vera Institute of Justice.

Some residents, county officials, and members of law enforcement say the new policy will compromise law enforcement’s ability to address crime. And at least a dozen municipalities in Los Angeles County filed a lawsuit in September to block the new system from taking effect.

More legislative efforts

Lawmakers in some states have pushed for further changes in their legislative sessions.

Connecticut state Rep. Steven Stafstrom, a Democrat, said the problem in his state stems from an outdated constitutional provision that limits the state’s ability to deny bail, primarily reserving bail for capital offenses. But the state abolished the death penalty more than a decade ago. Since capital offenses no longer exist in Connecticut, there are limited legal grounds for holding people pretrial, especially if they have the financial means to post bail.

“We really need to first repeal that provision out of the state constitution and then move much more towards a risk-based system that takes into account someone’s risk and likelihood to flee as opposed to simply their ability to pay,” Stafstrom said in an interview with Stateline.

In Minnesota, a bill introduced by Democrats this year would limit the use of cash bail by the courts for misdemeanor offenses.

In Cuyahoga County, Ohio, where Cleveland is located, informal changes to the court’s culture and practices have reduced the number of people required to pay cash bail, according to The Marshall Project, a news outlet focused on criminal justice. The state supreme court also made changes in 2020 and 2021 aimed at reducing the number of people jailed before trial. Last year, voters passed a measure that requires judges to consider certain factors when setting bail, including public safety.

The adoption of alternative approaches, such as pretrial risk assessments, is gaining ground across the country. Some two dozen different risk assessment tools are in use in at least 26 states, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Stateline is a sister publication of The Virginia Mercury within States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Stateline maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Scott S. Greenberger for questions: Follow Stateline on Facebook and Twitter.


by Amanda Hernandez, Virginia Mercury

Virginia Mercury is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Virginia Mercury maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sarah Vogelsong for questions: Follow Virginia Mercury on Facebook and Twitter.

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Virginia War Memorial Announces Winners of 2023 Veterans Day Student Essay Contest



An eighth-grade student from Henrico County and a high school junior from Fairfax County were the first-place winners in the Virginia War Memorial’s 2023 Veterans Day Student Essay Contest. The winners were announced at the 67th Annual Veterans Day Ceremony held Friday, November 10 at the Virginia War Memorial in Richmond.

The winner in the middle school category is David Contreras, an 8th grade homeschooled student who lives in Henrico. His teacher is his mother, Rachel Contreras.

The winner in the high school category is Mia Ramos, a 11th grade student at W. T. Woodson High School in Fairfax.  Her teacher is Ashley Kipperman.

Virginia Lieutenant Governor Winsome Earle-Sears with the two winning students at the ceremony.

The annual competition was open to middle and high school-age students residing in Virginia and enrolled in public or private schools or homeschooled.  The essay topic for the 2023 competition was “A Virginian Who Served in the Military During the Korean War Era Who Inspires Me.”

Both contest winners were invited to Richmond accompanied by their parents, guardians and teachers where they read their essays aloud as part of the Veterans Day Ceremony on stage in the E. Bruce Heilman Amphitheater at the Virginia War Memorial. The students were personally congratulated by and Virginia Lieutenant Governor Winsome Earle-Sears; Major General James W. Ring, Adjutant General of Virginia; Virginia Department of Veterans Services Commissioner Daniel Gade; and Virginia War Memorial Director Dr. Clay Mountcastle.

The students also received prize packages donated by McDonald’s Restaurants of Richmond and Hampton Roads and the Virginia War Memorial Foundation.

“We are pleased to join Lieutenant Governor Earle-Sears, Commissioner Gade and all our fellow Virginians in congratulating Mia and David on their winning entries in the Virginia War Memorial’s 2023 Veterans Day Student Essay Contest.  Congratulations also to all of the students from throughout the Commonwealth that took the time to write essays and submit essays this year,” said Dr. Clay Mountcastle, Virginia War Memorial Director.

“Educating our young people and passing on the stories of service and sacrifice of our men and women who served is one of our most important missions here at the Virginia War Memorial. With their inspiring words, both written and presented in person during the Veterans Day Ceremony, these two inspiring students demonstrate the importance of this vital mission.”

The winning essays are posted online on the Virginia War Memorial Foundation website:

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Thank You to our Local Business Participants:


Aders Insurance Agency, Inc (State Farm)

Aire Serv Heating and Air Conditioning

Apple Dumpling Learning Center

Apple House

Auto Care Clinic

Avery-Hess Realty, Marilyn King

Beaver Tree Services

Blake and Co. Hair Spa

Blue Mountain Creative Consulting

Blue Ridge Arts Council

Blue Ridge Education

BNI Shenandoah Valley

C&C's Ice Cream Shop

Card My Yard

CBM Mortgage, Michelle Napier

Christine Binnix - McEnearney Associates

Code Jamboree LLC

Code Ninjas Front Royal

Cool Techs Heating and Air

Down Home Comfort Bakery

Downtown Market

Dusty's Country Store

Edward Jones-Bret Hrbek

Explore Art & Clay

Family Preservation Services

First Baptist Church

Front Royal Independent Business Alliance

Front Royal/Warren County C-CAP

First Baptist Church

Front Royal Treatment Center

Front Royal Women's Resource Center

Front Royal-Warren County Chamber of Commerce

Fussell Florist

G&M Auto Sales Inc

Garcia & Gavino Family Bakery

Gourmet Delights Gifts & Framing

Green to Ground Electrical

Groups Recover Together

Habitat for Humanity

Groups Recover Together

House of Hope

I Want Candy

I'm Just Me Movement

Jean’s Jewelers

Jen Avery, REALTOR & Jenspiration, LLC

Key Move Properties, LLC

KW Solutions

Legal Services Plans of Northern Shenendoah

Main Street Travel

Makeover Marketing Systems

Marlow Automotive Group

Mary Carnahan Graphic Design

Merchants on Main Street

Mountain Trails

Mountain View Music

National Media Services

Natural Results Chiropractic Clinic

No Doubt Accounting

Northwestern Community Services Board

Ole Timers Antiques

Penny Lane Hair Co.

Philip Vaught Real Estate Management

Phoenix Project

Reaching Out Now

Rotary Club of Warren County

Royal Blends Nutrition

Royal Cinemas

Royal Examiner

Royal Family Bowling Center

Royal Oak Bookshop

Royal Oak Computers

Royal Oak Bookshop

Royal Spice

Ruby Yoga

Salvation Army

Samuels Public Library

SaVida Health

Skyline Insurance

Shenandoah Shores Management Group

St. Luke Community Clinic

Strites Doughnuts

Studio Verde

The Arc of Warren County

The Institute for Association & Nonprofit Research

The Studio-A Place for Learning

The Valley Today - The River 95.3

The Vine and Leaf

Valley Chorale

Warren Charge (Bennett's Chapel, Limeton, Asbury)

Warren Coalition

Warren County Democratic Committee

Warren County Department of Social Services

Warren County DSS Job Development

Warrior Psychotherapy Services, PLLC

WCPS Work-Based Learning

What Matters & Beth Medved Waller, Inc Real Estate

White Picket Fence

Woodward House on Manor Grade

King Cartoons

Front Royal, VA
7:16 am4:50 pm EST
Feels like: 36°F
Wind: 13mph NW
Humidity: 53%
Pressure: 30.1"Hg
UV index: 1
52°F / 32°F
59°F / 34°F
59°F / 43°F

Upcoming Events

5:30 pm Free Holiday Meal @ Trinity Lutheran Church
Free Holiday Meal @ Trinity Lutheran Church
Dec 6 @ 5:30 pm – 7:00 pm
Free Holiday Meal @ Trinity Lutheran Church
If one has read the Surgeon General’s 2023 report on America’s epidemic of loneliness and crisis of disconnection, one can then understand the significance that a Holiday Meal can have on the community at large. [...]
6:30 pm Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Dec 6 @ 6:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Bingo to support the American Cancer Society mission, organized by Relay For Life of Front Royal. Every Wednesday evening Early Bird Bingo at 6:30 p.m. Regular Bingo from 7-9:30 p.m. Food and refreshments available More[...]
8:00 am Breakfast with Santa @ Rivermont Volunteer Fire Department
Breakfast with Santa @ Rivermont Volunteer Fire Department
Dec 9 @ 8:00 am – 11:00 am
Breakfast with Santa @ Rivermont Volunteer Fire Department
Rivermont Volunteer Fire Department is having a Breakfast with Santa on Saturday, December 9th, from 8:00 a.m.- 11:00 a.m. Adults are $10.00 Kids are $5.00 Children 5 and under are free!
12:00 pm Christmas Lunch for Kids, Vets a... @ Front Royal Elks Lodge
Christmas Lunch for Kids, Vets a... @ Front Royal Elks Lodge
Dec 9 @ 12:00 pm – 4:00 pm
Christmas Lunch for Kids, Vets and Seniors @ Front Royal Elks Lodge
The Front Royal Elks Lodge will hold it’s annual Holiday Lunch for Kids, Veterans and Seniors on Saturday, December 9. Festivities will begin at 12 noon. Mr. and Mrs. Clause are said to be coming!
4:30 pm Astronomy for Everyone @ Sky Meadows State Park
Astronomy for Everyone @ Sky Meadows State Park
Dec 9 @ 4:30 pm – 7:30 pm
Astronomy for Everyone @ Sky Meadows State Park
Historic Area. Discover our International Dark-Sky Park! Our evenings begin with a half-hour children’s “Junior Astronomer” program, followed by a discussion about the importance of dark skies and light conservation. Then join NASA’s Jet Propulsion[...]
7:30 pm American Legion Community Band C... @ Boggs Chapel at R-MA
American Legion Community Band C... @ Boggs Chapel at R-MA
Dec 12 @ 7:30 pm – 9:30 pm
American Legion Community Band Christmas Concert @ Boggs Chapel at R-MA
The American Legion Community Band, located in Front Royal, Virginia, was formed in 1986 and has been playing concerts in the area ever since. The conductors and band members are all volunteer musicians from the local[...]
6:30 pm Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Dec 13 @ 6:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Bingo to support the American Cancer Society mission, organized by Relay For Life of Front Royal. Every Wednesday evening Early Bird Bingo at 6:30 p.m. Regular Bingo from 7-9:30 p.m. Food and refreshments available More[...]
7:00 am Pancake Breakfast @ Riverton United Methodist Church
Pancake Breakfast @ Riverton United Methodist Church
Dec 16 @ 7:00 am – 10:00 am
Pancake Breakfast @ Riverton United Methodist Church
Join us for pancakes, sausage, scrambled eggs, biscuits, sausage gravy, and juice/coffee! All are invited for this FREE event. Offering will be accepted.