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Counties approve jail authority

The Piedmont Regional Jail is in the final steps of establishing itself as a jail authority.

The authority will replace the current system, which consists of governance by a jail board. Amelia, Buckingham, Cumberland, Prince Edward, Lunenburg and Nottoway counties currently make up the jail board and will make up the membership of the jail’s authority.

Vivian Seay Giles

Vivian Seay Giles

Creation of the authority has been pending boards of supervisors’ approval in each of the partnering counties.

According to Buckingham County Administrator Rebecca Carter, all the counties involved have approved the resolutions and appointed representatives for the Regional Jail Authority Board.

“I believe the only edits have been in regards to names of appointees and their addresses,” Carter said in regard to the service agreement that’s been approved.

Each county chose three individuals to be appointed to the authority board, including the county administrator, the sheriff and a citizen.

“The next steps will relate to the transfer of operations and assets from the board to the authority,” Cumberland County Administrator and County Attorney Vivian Seay Giles said. 

Involved localities have been approving resolutions and membership to set the authority in motion since November.

The authority has been under consideration by the counties affected since an initial informational meeting in July at Fort Pickett in Nottoway.

According to the signed resolutions, the purpose for creating the authority includes “acquiring, constructing, owning, equipping, maintaining and operating regional jail facilities, including, but not limited to, enlarging, renovating and improving such facilities; acquiring the necessary real personal property therefore, with the right of contract for the use of, or to lease, mortgage or sell any or all of such facilities, including real property.”

According to the documents, the authority board will make decisions which it deems necessary, convenient and applicable to efficient and proper development and operation of the facilities.

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’s 101 District/Farmville Supervisor Howard F. Simpson.

In a previous interview, Carter said she believed a jail authority would be beneficial.

“The greatest advantage lies in the reduction of liability for the counties and for jail board members,” Bartlett previously said.

An authority, unlike a jail board, is a “political subdivision for the commonwealth,” and, as such, is able to shield the counties and board members from being held directly responsible for actions involving the jail.

According to Bartlett, an example of this would be if the jail were to expend funds on a major capital project, the ensuing debt would not be reflected on the individual county’s budget sheets.

He said the shift of obligation and responsibility would give the authority the option to charge higher housing rates for federal prisoners, effectively transferring repayment responsibility from the counties to the federal government.