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Virginia Jail Disgraceful

Richmond City Jail is in such bad shape newly elected Sheriff C.T. Woody called it a ...disaster. I knew it was bad, but I had no idea it was that bad, he said.

On January 4, 2006 a report was issued detailing the deficiencies of the 40-year old jail. Mayor L. Douglas Wilders Commission on City Jail Issues reported a variety of problems ranging from commonplace to highly unusual.
The three month study ran from August to November 2005 and noted the following problems.

" Jail staff was determined to be severely under trained. Most staff received no follow-up training after the academy;

" Richmond City Jail was neither accredited by the American Correctional Association (ACA) nor were there any current efforts to get accredited. The Commission reasoned that both training and accreditation was vital to ensure the health, safety, and welfare of staff and offenders within a correctional setting.

" Record management in the jail was inefficient in that it was not automated and lacked efficient communication with the Sheriff's Office and the Police Department;

" Searches before and after visits were virtually nonexistent;

" Prisoners were placed at risk because current classification procedures
are based on bed space with no regard to nature of offense, size of offender, strength or age considerations of prisoners who are housed together. Such oversights enhance the probability of assaultive incidents as weaker prisoners might find themselves housed with others who are violent or predatory.

It was the death of Gregory Robinson, in August 2005, that prompted the study. Robinson was beaten to death by a prisoner who was able to manipulate the cell door locks to escape from his own cell and access Robinsons.

" The commission also determined that defective classification procedures enhanced risk to prisoners with respect to communicable diseases, escape risks, mental problems and a host of other areas;

" The jail was determined to be holding critically ill and terminally ill prisoners, who posed no threat to society, while costing taxpayers money;

" Hypodermic needles were left unattended in the infirmary accessible to passing inmates and staff. Inspectors also found medical staff lunches stored in the refrigerator with body fluid samples;

" Medical administrative services were not computerized and prisoners requests for medical services were not being held in a confidential manner;

" Commission members observed extreme idleness of inmates at the city jail and recommended that educational programs be provided.

Woody agreed with the commissions assessment. Its truly a disaster, he said of the jail. I stepped into a hornets nest. Its a shame and a disgrace.

The commission also determined that, apart from the necessary improvements to the current jail, funds should be allocated to build a new one. Capacity for the current jail is 882 prisoners. However, the jail consistently houses up to 1,300.

In the current jail, over $150,000 is needed to repair the plumbing in just three of the dormitories. Additionally, the commission recommended the complete replacement of boilers, windows and much of the electrical system. They also recommended upgrades for the kitchen, heat distribution units, showers and cell doors. These were all cited as changes necessary to meet and maintain minimal constitutional standards for the inmates housed in the jail.

Needed improvements would cost the city $15 to 20 million.

Sources: Virginia Times Dispatch, Mayors Commission on City Jail Issues

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