We recently sat down at Jumpin J’s for an interview with candidate for sheriff Clarence T. “CT” Woody.
The 15 minute interview took place late afternoon on Friday, September 16, 2005 at Jumpin J’s. Mr. Woody arrived at the agreed upon time and was personable and professional. He is a tall man, serious, well-spoken, and not quite as gruff as he appears on his website. At each question he paused to consider the question and his answer before speaking. His answers and demeanor give the impression of a man that wants to be sheriff because he strongly feels that he can do a good job.
I’m not real clear on what the sheriff actually does. Can you describe that for me?
The basic responsability of the sheriff is to make sure that the jail is safe and secure. The sheriff is in charge of feeding all of the prisoners, responsible for all civil papers being served, for court room security, for actually running the jail. Another very impotant thing is the transportation of the prisoners, from jail to court, they transfer them to other locations where other courtrooms need them.
There have been some high-profile problems in the jail over the past year, two years… how would electing you change things?
The problems that I have seen myself in the sheriff’s department in the past 12 years really, they have some serious problems with leadership, serious problems with accountability, serious problems with accepting responsibility, and some serious problems with the jail being safe. There have also been some serous problems with misuse of funds.
To correct these problems, I would surround myself with individuals that are experts in finance, administration, court room and jail security. For instance, I’m not an expert on the budget. I would definitely hire someone to handle the budget. I would hold that person responsible. If something is found wrong by ouside auditors, state auditors, ciy auditors — when you find that there has been a misuse of funds, then someone should be fired, replaced. The sheriff needs to step up and say “I’m responsible for that, I’m going to correct that.” Don’t hem and haw and dodge… For instance, giving the governor a check for $10,000 out of the prison fund. That is a misuse of funds, there is no excuse for it. That is trying to buy a political position, that is really what it is. The governor was embarrassed by it, that’s why he sent it back to them.
The buck stops with the sheriff; they are responsible. This is what I mean by accountability… When something goes wrong at the jail, don’t fire the deputy, fire the person that is in charge of that deputy. Those are the hardest working people down there, the deputies themselves, and they’re working adverse conditions: the jail is insecure, there is a high turnover rate, there are training problems. A good leader will start from the top and clean up.
How does your background prepare you to be sheriff?
I’m a professional law enforcement officer. I’ve been invoved in law enforcement for approximately 38 years, 35 of those years with the Richmond Police Department. And while I worked with the RPD, I spend 22 years investigating homicides. I worked with the FBI, the DEA, the ATF… I feel that any sheriff should have a background in law enforcement.
After working with the RPD for 35 years, I went to the commonwealth’s attorney’s office (where I am presently employed). I train, consult, and advise new attorneys on how to prosecute cases in court. I handle special cases before grand juries. I work closely with the Richmond Police Department and the other local area law enforcement departments.
I’m experienced, I kow how to deal with criminals, I know what court room security means, I know what keeping a jail safe means.
Your website says that offering rehabilitation, preventive services, and reform opportunities are some of your goals. Could you tell me a little more about that?
Rehabilitation and programs for those that are addicted to drugs, those that that have drinking problems, those that that have mental problems — the jails, the bars don’t really change minds. What changes minds is the person themselves, but they need help.
A problem at the jail that I’ve learned about from the area ministers that I’ve interviewd and that I’ve talked to, is that they have been locked out of the Richmond City Jail. There are so many volunteers that want to get in there and work with these people. I plan to bring in the community itself, I plan to bring in the faith-based community, I plan to bring in the businessmen…
The sheriff’s office looks like both a civil service and political position. What kind of relationship to the mayor and/or the police chief does the sheriff’s office require?
The sheriff is elected by the citizens. It is not supposed to be a political job, but it is hard to take poilitics out of it. The sheriff should be able to work with the current administration, to work wth the mayor, to work with the chief of police, and other sheriffs in the surrounding counties.
I want to be a community sheriff. I want to work closely with the RPD. For instance, it does not make sense that an officer working here in Church Hill, that when an arrest is made, that the officer has to call the wagon and then follow the wagon downtown, fill out a report and carry (the arrestee) in there and let the sheriff process him. I will implement a program where my jail wagon is on the street 24-7, just like the police are. So that when an arrest is made, the wagon will come and pick up the arrestee. You have the same officer on the beat, he doesn’t have to go downtown and waste 2 or 3 hours waiting in line waiting to be processed.