By Katie Demeria
WOODSTOCK -- The Shenandoah County Board of Supervisors has created a committee designed to solve the problems that the county's circuit court will face when holding inmates once the Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren Regional Jail opens this summer.
The board held a meeting Thursday during which members heard from Judge Dennis L. Hupp, who explained the issues from his point of view.
"What gave rise to this was, as we were looking to the future when the regional jail opens, it will probably require some expansion to the holding facilities down at the circuit court," Hupp said.
Hupp requested the meeting take place after he was informed of some "miscommunication or misunderstanding" about the issue.
Currently, inmates are held at the Shenandoah County Jail, which offers easy access to the court so prisoners can be escorted over as necessary.
Moving prisoners to the regional jail, however, will require adjustments to the holding facilities. Because inmates will no longer be housed at the county jail, the trained personnel required in handling them will no longer be readily available.
Hupp requested the court's holding cells be expanded to hold up to 12 inmates at one time. Right now they can hold four or five.
"That's the need we have, and I'm just here to ask you to meet that need," Hupp said.
Video equipment set up at the regional jail will make the job easier, he added. On their busiest grand jury days, the circuit court sees an average of 30 inmates a day.
With video conferences, though, that number could be reduced by up to 75 percent, so a smaller number of inmates will have to be transported to the court.
The issue of where those remaining inmates will be held once reaching the court, though, has been one that Sheriff Timothy C. Carter said he has been trying to address for years without the necessary support from the board about whether or not the county jail could be used as a holding area.
Chairman David Ferguson said, during that time, communication was unclear over whether Carter or the board was responsible for finding a suitable facility for the court's processing center.
"We're very good at defining the problem, but we're not very good at defining what the solution is going to be," Ferguson said.
County Administrator Mary T. Price is in charge of putting together the committee responsible for coming up with a solution.
As of now, Duane Williams, facilities foreman, and board member Cindy Bailey volunteered to participate on the committee.
Both agreed that a solution would be relatively simple and hopefully inexpensive, so long as heat, water and air conditioning could be returned to the county jail cells available for holding, and an accessible pathway could be made between them and the court.
"Regardless of how many we are able to do by video, we are going to have to have the appropriate facility to hold the inmates when they come over here. And that's what they've been talking about, for years," Bailey said of Carter and his staff. "That that jail, for circuit court benefit, would have to be left open in some capacity, at least for court holding."
Contact staff writer Katie Demeria at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or firstname.lastname@example.org