Next year, there will be a new sheriff in town. Virginia Beach’s Paul Lanteigne, who’s held the job in that city since 2000, is retiring. Beach residents have a choice between two men with similar views on public safety. Virginia Beach Police Capt. John Bell and State Senator Ken Stolle both say they’re committed to improving, maintaining, and promoting public safety. That’s a good first step for any candidate.
Bell and Stolle differ on other goals and objectives for the Sheriff’s Office.
Stolle, the Republican candidate, says he “will not overturn a judge’s order” to let people out of jail on work release or electronic monitoring. He told me in a phone interview, “if they have 90 days, they serve it.”
Democratic candidate Bell said he does not want to “disregard a judge’s order. I want to work with the judges to increase the use of electronic monitoring and alternative sentencing.” Bell said he does not support the idea for violent offenders, but believes it could be used to take the load off the jail in the daytime, giving deputies more ability to focus on controlling violent offenders. Bell said a person in jail for failure to pay child support is one example of a person who might benefit from electronic monitoring.
As for overall goals, I asked both candidates where would they use the position to make changes in Virginia Beach.
Stolle: “I would use my experience in the legislature to change laws governing the use of inmates for work. Right now Sheriffs are prohibited from using an inmate workforce on private property… I think it could be expanded primarily in two areas. I’d like to see an exception, for example, for graffiti. I’d also like to create a faith-based commission to find and designate indigent people who need repairs. Supervised inmates could do the work.”
Bell: “There’s a trend where we build more cells, I want to address it on the front end… The Sheriff’s Office ought to be more involved in mentoring in neighborhoods, beyond D.A.R.E., but to older youths. We can can be role models for our youth… Also, once people are incarcerated, how are they prepared to re-enter community? …So many people come into jail with drug addictions. We can do more with drug abuse programs in jail. While they’re in jail, they can also get education, so they’re better prepared for when they get out.”
Bell and Stolle have plenty of ideas about how to operate and manage the Virginia Beach Correctional Center. Their campaign signs have popped up all across Virginia Beach in recent weeks. While neither candidate will likely spend money to run television ads, both are spending plenty of time on the streets. If you live in Virginia Beach, look for Capt. Bell, or Sen. Stolle (or one of their friends) to knock on your door in the next few weeks. Just in case you’re not at home when they stop by to ask for your vote, you can click here to take a closer look at Capt. John Bell or St. Sen. Ken Stolle.