Funding Matters

Published 4:37 pm Thursday, October 11, 2012

PRINCE EDWARD – After years of not having to chip in to house inmates in the Piedmont Regional Jail, participating localities may finally be asked to ante up.

“There was a special called meeting of the Jail Board about a week ago,” detailed County Administrator Wade Bartlett at the Tuesday night board of supervisors meeting. “And, as you will recall, the superintendent of the Jail, Mr. (Ernest) Toney, came during our budget process. Said that there have been issues-the loss of state funding by the reduction of per diem, the loss of some outside inmates reduced the revenue stream and that the localities would probably have to start paying in the future.”

Bartlett, who serves as an alternate representative to the Regional Jail Board, also noted, “…He called the meeting saying that we'd better be prepared in the next month or so.”

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The county administrator reported that they've lost about 100 federal inmates due to various reasons-citing “mainly medical staffing reasons and of course the infamous prisoner release…Those two things together have hurt the ability of the Jail Board to sign any new contracts and to continue some existing contracts for those federal prisoners.”

Bartlett told the board that the U.S. Marshall's office came, did an inspection of the jail and the medical and that the main issues were the training of the staff. To keep costs low, he reported, CNAs (Certified Nursing Assistants) were being used and that federal guidelines want to see LPNs (Licensed Practical Nurses). He added that there was also a question about the number of staff on hand at any one time.

“The Jail Board has worked to resolve those issues,” the county administrator reported. “There will a re-inspection in November. They feel that they'll meet all of the guidelines at that time and, hopefully, will then be able to recruit additional federal prisoners. And they need about 100 to 110 to break even…”

Prince Edward bears the lion's share of the number of local inmates housed at the facility-to the tune of about 40 percent-and would stand to pay the most. And that could be costly.

“If he doesn't get the numbers up, you could be looking at a half a million dollars this fiscal year on our part,” Bartlett told the board. “They've lost about $160,000 a month in revenue from the loss of the federal prisoners.”

He added, “Now when he told us the (the figure) they hadn't had these issues. This was back in about May.”

Powhatan, Bartlett said, has expressed an interest to join the Jail as a member. There is a buy-in cost and would “give an infusion of a considerable amount of cash, but it would just delay the inevitable because what you would actually be doing then, they would then receive a lower rate because they'd be a member. Therefore you would reduce the amount of your monthly income.”

The county administrator also reported that the Jail Board has “decided to have the auditor re-look at this to see if it's time, maybe to close down a lot of that facility and only house prisoners from our region-get out of the business of housing others. I don't know how that's going to come out.”

If you do that, Bartlett said, there definitely will be a cost to the members. They are the last jail in the state, he reported, where members have not had to pay.

“It's not an expense issue,” Bartlett commented. “The Regional Jail has the lowest inmate cost per day of any jail in the state. It's a revenue issue.”