Jail authority under consideration

Published 3:23 pm Tuesday, July 26, 2016

An informational session was held last week to discuss the possible formation of an authority to govern the Piedmont Regional Jail.

The session, which took place on Monday, July 18, was hosted by Nottoway County. Cumberland County Administrator and County Attorney Vivian Giles facilitated the discussion.

Representatives from Amelia, Buckingham, Cumberland, Lunenburg, Nottoway and Prince Edward counties were invited to attend.

The authority’s purpose would be acquiring, constructing, owning, equipping, maintaining and operating the Piedmont Regional Jail, as stated in the drafted resolution. This could include enlarging, renovating and improving the facilities.

A jail board currently governs the jail, which is made up of representatives from member counties.

The discussion included the positives and negatives of the six counties forming an authority.

Currently, the six county boards of supervisors vote to approve action pertaining to the jail. However, under the influence of an authority, only the jail authority members would have to approve action pertaining to the jail.

A jail authority is a “smart thing to do,” said Giles. She referenced liability concerns as the six counties that make up the regional jail could be involved with litigation.

With the formation of a jail authority, “a lawsuit against the jail would be against the authority rather than the six member counties,” said Prince Edward County Board of Supervisors Chairman Howard Simpson.

According to the drafted resolution authorizing the organization for the Piedmont Regional Jail Authority, each of the six counties would be allotted three representatives to sit on the authority. Of those, one would be the respective county’s sheriff and two would be voted in by the respective county’s board of supervisors.

“The terms of the office of the members, other that the aforesaid sheriffs, shall be at the will of the governing bodies of the respective participating political subdivisions,” stated the draft.

“I think the possibility of the jail authority certainly has its pros and cons, but I do think it will be beneficial,” said Buckingham County Administrator Rebecca S. Carter. “I do think the local governments will have to still have some control as to the finances, and I believe having three authority members from each county on that authority will have to secure this concern.”

“I also think that the service agreement is where the most attention needs to be given. As Ms. Giles stated last evening, a lot of it mirrors the procedures that the regional jail board already follows,” said Carter.

The service agreement, presented in draft form during the meeting, outlines certain services that the jail would provide in exchange for payment from the counties.

Giles asked that the counties consider changing the draft language requiring a unanimous vote to resolve, withdraw and retain any money. The group in attendance agreed that a supermajority vote would work best for those situations.

Establishment of a jail authority hinges on approval by the six member counties’ boards of supervisors.

Giles noted various requested changes to the drafted documents during the Monday meeting.

The jail charges member counties per inmate arrested in their respective county per day.