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Prosecutors, defense attorneys impressed by new jail

The opening of the $72 million, 175,000-square-foot Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren Regional Jail just north of Front Royal on U.S. 340-522 comes after a decade of planning and construction. Rich Cooley/Daily (Buy photo)

By Joe Beck

FRONT ROYAL -- Prosecutors and defense attorneys agreed Tuesday that the new regional jail is an improvement over current facilities in Rappahannock, Warren and Shenandoah counties.

A group of public defenders who toured the Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren Regional Jail said they were pleased with several features that they think will cut down on violence among inmates.

Assistant public defender Peter McDermott said the new jail's classification system for inmates should help steer prisoners away from disruptive behavior.

Inmates will enter the jail through the booking unit and can remain there up to 72 hours before being moved into the classification unit where they will be interviewed and assigned to another housing unit in the jail based on their criminal record, current charges, medical and mental health needs and other factors. Classification is supposed to be conducted within 72 hours of arraignment.

"Having several different levels of security is going to disincentivize violence a lot better," McDermott said.

Assistant public defender Simon Herr said the jail's location just north of Front Royal will be an asset for him and his clients.

"As a public defender in Front Royal, we'll have more opportunities to visit our clients, so we're excited about that," Herr said.

McDermott said clients of his who are incarcerated in existing facilities are generally ambivalent about the impending move to the RSW jail.

"Everyone's aware of it, but no one knows what to think about it," McDermott said, adding, "There's a lot of people who don't like changing where they are."

Assistant Warren County commonwealth's attorney Anna Hammond came away impressed after she completed her tour with colleague Michael Fleming.

"I really do appreciate the emphasis on security for inmates and staff," Hammond said.

Fleming said the existing Warren County jail has some places where there is no natural light or view outside, but the new facility will allow inmates to look out into enclosed recreation spaces to view the weather conditions and the passage of daytime and nighttime.

"It's not like you're totally shut off," Fleming said, adding that outside views can help inmates naturally regulate their metabolism.

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

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