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Juvenile Detention Center Increases Security

PRINCE EDWARD — “More training, more training, more training,” that is what the staff of Piedmont Regional Juvenile Detention Center have been up to since the escape of two inmates on August 2, says detention center Superintendent Spring Johnson.

Force was used in the escape of two inmates Saturday morning, August 2, from the detention center, according to police. A third inmate also attempted to escape, but was detained by staff before leaving the facility. The inmates were apprehended approximately six hours later in a bean field ten miles west of the detention center. Both suspects were being held in the detention center due to violent crimes.

Johnson did not provide a copy of the incident or follow-up escape report when requested by The Herald, saying that it is still in draft form.

She did, however, provide The Herald with a copy of a report to the Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice, dated August 20, wherein she outlines in detail the detention center’s steps to increase security since the escape. Three staff members were immediately assigned to the midnight shift, the shift during which the escape in August occurred, at all times, the report stated. “The superintendent or designees will be making unannounced visits during the evening and midnight shifts for consistency and best practices,” the report continues.

A walk through of the center by maintenance and administrative staff two days after the escape found all security and non-security equipment was functioning properly, Johnson’s report states.

Documented refresher training for all employees was conducted during the month of August and will be on-going, the report states. Training covers topics such as escapes, key control, control of perimeter, and staff supervision of residents. A special training was also scheduled for Handle with Care instructors at the center. It would provide training for personnel that would be responding to an emergency situation for situations when “hands on” would be required.

Some changes have also been made at the facility. Now, only supervisors carry keys that open internal doors at the detention center. Additional cameras are also being installed in the recreation yard.

The detention center was built over 13 years ago using $2.25 million provided by Piedmont Regional Jail (PRJ), according to officials. It serves the same six counties as the jail, and is operated by a board made up of representatives from each of those counties. Ronald Roark, Nottoway County administrator and chairman of the detention center board confirmed with The Herald that the security changes were made with the board’s approval.

The residential facility provides temporary care for delinquents and alleged delinquents requiring secure custody pending court disposition or placement, or who are placed in the facility by the court as a sanction once found guilty of an offense, states the Department of Juvenile Justice website.

With only 20 beds, the facility is small. Officials have decided to increase the relationship between the detention center and PRJ. Both are located just outside of the Farmville Town limits at the end of Industrial Park Road. They are close enough to share parking spaces. The jail is working with the detention center to assist as needed in case of an emergency, PRJ Superintendent Donald Hunter told The Herald last month. PRJ regularly houses well over 700 inmates and has a much larger security staff.

Johnson confirms that portable, two-way radios are now in place. They can be used to contact PRJ in case of an emergency. During a drill held August 14, PRJ personnel were able to physically respond to the detention center within six minutes. The two facilities are also exploring the possibility of an intercom system that would provide direct contact.