News

Four West Virginia Officials, including Circuit Court Judge, Face Federal Charges

By Christopher Zoukis

A former West Virginia judge is facing up to ten years in federal prison after pleading guilty to charges that he conspired to protect a county sheriff from allegations of drug-related activity.

Former Mingo County Circuit Court Judge Michael Thornsbury, 57, pleaded guilty on October 2, 2013 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia, and will be sentenced in January 2014. He resigned from his elected post the same day and consented to voluntary disbarment in a letter to the state Office of Disciplinary Counsel.

Thornsbury was charged with conspiring with Mingo County Sheriff Eugene Crum and other officials to offer a lighter sentence to a defendant from whom Crum had bought drugs and owed a $3,000 debt for campaign signs. According to federal prosecutors, that defendant, George White, is now serving a 1-to-15-year sentence imposed by Thornsbury, who offered a more lenient sentence if White would fire his attorney and hire another one preferred by the judge. The offer was intended to silence White’s lawyer, who was providing information about Sheriff Crum to federal investigators and the news media.

“For a judge to violate someone’s constitutional rights is really beyond the pale,” said U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin. “But to violate someone’s rights in order to obstruct a federal investigation, that’s really unthinkable. Elected officials shouldn’t be treated differently than anyone else.”

Read More »

Drew University's Partnership for Religion and Education in Prisons

By Christopher Zoukis   

Drew University is a New Jersey-based theological school that nurtures Christian partnerships and has become active in prisons. Recalling PEW research that states “1 in every 100 persons in the USA is incarcerated,” the founders of the program believe that incarcerated individuals are members of our communities and that it is an issue that must be embraced whole-heartedly.  To that end, Drew launched the Partnership for Religion and Education in Prisons (PREP) to work with prison populations and also provide pastoral and teaching experience for its theological students.  Image courtesy drewmagazine.com

PREP

PREP is based on a prison education model begun in Nashville, Tennessee in 2002, but also incorporates elements of other well-known prison programs in its design.  According to Drew University, the initiative, PREP “creates opportunities for a joint theological learning environment between theological students and students within State correctional facilities.”   The foundation of the program rests upon meaningful academic dialogue fostered by religious overtones.  Practicing ministers engage a diverse population of students; the aim of the program is to help reduce recidivism as well as to help people transform their lives, to find purpose, and to reshape their experience into a brighter path–one leading away from prison and the behaviors that led them there.

Read More »
Categories
Categories
Archives