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Posted May 1, 2013 | comments Leave a comment

Drug arrests may be fueling surge in jail population

By Joe Beck

Overcrowding at the Warren County Jail has Sheriff Daniel T. McEathron scrambling to find neighboring jurisdictions willing to house some of the inmates.

McEathron said Tuesday the jail's population has been fluctuating recently between 191 and 195, more than double its rated capacity of 70.

"We're bursting at the seams," McEathron said. "That's why we're building the regional jail."

McEathron said the wave of drug-related arrests from Operation Valley Venue last week may have contributed to the overcrowding, but he was unsure how many defendants have bonded out by now or were issued court summons that did not require them to be booked into the jail.

Virginia State Police listed 37 felony and 4 misdemeanor arrests in Warren County during the eight-hour operation on Thursday.

"Obviously, anytime you get an operation or a big weekend, that generates a lot of arrests," McEathron said. "We've been overcrowded and overcrowded for a long time. The number just seems to keep growing."

Neal Knudsen, a defense lawyer, said he is usually able to work around the crowded conditions when he has to see a client by scheduling appointments when there is likely to be less activity in the jail.

Still, he told Circuit Judge Dennis L. Hupp during a hearing Tuesday that he had noticed the jail was "filled to the rafters."

McEathron said any agreement he reaches with other jurisdictions to accept some inmates likely will be an added expense for Warren County.

"It's something we hope to take care of this week," McEathron said.

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or jbeck@nvdaily.com

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