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After Public Attack, Pastors Fire Back at Sheriff Woody

Led by the Rev. Tyrone Nelson, local pastors say Sheriff C.T. Woody went too far in his recent accusations.

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Richmond Sheriff C.T. Woody's recent railing against the Rev. Tyrone Nelson has launched an all-out political battle.

In the Richmond Times-Dispatch last week, Woody called into question the motives of Nelson, pastor of Sixth Mount Zion Baptist Church, claiming the soft-spoken minister was attempting to wrest control of the city jail's substance-abuse program.

“The suggestion by the Rev. Tyrone Nelson and some members of Richmonders Involved to Strengthen Communities [RISC] that we have failed to implement an evidence-based alcohol and treatment program is incorrect,” Woody is quoted as saying in the newspaper April 21. “What we have failed to do is allow Rev. Nelson to require that the sheriff's office raise more than $180,000 to hire individuals selected by Rev. Nelson to work in the jail.”

Nelson, co-president of the interfaith activist organization, isn't taking the attack lying down.

“To insinuate that I would be trying to push my own personal agenda is insulting to me,” Nelson says, adding that he's at a loss for why Woody went into attack mode. “Black, white, Christian, Jew — we are a reflection of this city,” Nelson says. “We are Richmond. But [Woody's] comments seemed very personal.”

In a letter of response to Woody dated April 28 and shown to Style, Nelson and eight other members of RISC's board dissect the sheriff's statements with facts and Woody's seemingly contradictory remarks.

The letter makes note of Woody's agreement in May 2008 to create a task force to study implementation, funding and best practices for a new evidence-based treatment program at the jail. Woody also had agreed to implement the task-force plan by June 1 of this year.

“The Task Force, which you created, and which had 3 representatives of your choice … heard several proposals about which entity and which evidence-based method might be used to operate an evidence-based substance abuse treatment program in the Richmond City Jail,” the letter says. It references the unanimous recommendation that Woody contract with the Kentucky-based Healing Place program.

Mayor Dwight C. Jones, who appeared at RISC's April 20 meeting, agreed to seek the requested $140,000 needed to fund the program. Woody, who was not at the meeting, has said he has no money for such a program, but has recently touted his jail cost-savings and has said he returned $400,000 from his budget to the city.

“I don't want to get in a tit for tat about that money,” Nelson says, but “if you're giving back money, keep some of it and do this intensive drug treatment program.”

Sheriff's Office spokesman Lt. Col. Walter Allmon declines to comment on Nelson's letter, saying he'd not yet seen it. “I think the sheriff has said everything he's going to say,” Allmon says.

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