By Alex Bridges
FRONT ROYAL -- The public will get a chance to see the inside of the new regional jail Tuesday before it opens July 1.
Once the Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren Regional Jail on U.S. 340-522 opens, access to the inner parts of the facility will be limited to employees, some government officials and inmates.
The jail authority board plans to hold a ribbon cutting for the facility at 10 a.m. Tuesday, followed by an open house from noon to 4 p.m. Law enforcement agencies for the participating counties plan to transport their prisoners from the local jails to the regional facility later this month. Details are not being released for security reasons.
A short tour of the facility for the media Monday showed some of the jail's newer features that the local facilities in the three counties don't share. Lt. Brandon Miley, one of many corrections officers who came from the Warren County Jail to the new facility, pointed out some of RSW's amenities and improvements. Many of the new features enhance safety and security for employees and inmates, Miley said.
For instance, in the Warren County Jail, the area for inmates in the work-release program is located upstairs but deputies and the office is downstairs, Miley said. Deputies now can directly watch over the work-release inmates.
The new jail has 27 cells for individual inmates with certain mental or physical illnesses. Currently the county jail has two such rooms, Miley said. The new jail also eliminates a problem that the magistrates faced -- having to share a bathroom with inmates designated as trustys.
Corrections officers currently must escort prisoners from their cells to an outdoor recreation area. At the new jail, inmates can access recreation areas directly from their housing units.
Jail Superintendent Robert Mulligan said the facility does not allow visitors to meet with inmate face to face. Instead, the jail uses video cameras and telephones that let visitors see and talk with inmates without having to move the prisoners out of the cell pods. Mulligan said video visitation is becoming more common among correctional facilities.
Video visitation takes up less space in the jail and allows more visits to take place at the same time, Mulligan said. The system also eliminates the time it takes to move inmates from a housing unit to the visitation area, Mulligan added. Video visitation takes fewer employees to run and also decreases the risk associated with opening and closing doors around the jail while moving inmates, some of whom may pose risks, the superintendent noted. In addition, the system takes fewer employees to run.
Male and female inmates stay in separate areas of the jail. However, the jail differentiates inmates by security levels, not by gender, which allows the facility to shift around the prisoners as populations change. Male and female inmates eat in their housing units where tables are provided, Mulligan said.
The superintendent said the jail administration plans to contract with a doctor to provide medical care to inmates. The jail is hiring nurses to provide coverage 24 hours a day and a mental health counselor.
Workers with Howard Shockey & Sons continue to address a "punch list" of smaller items that need to be done in the jail. The contractor recently received the final certificate of occupancy that allows people other than the construction workers inside the building.
Plans call for the $72 million, 175,000-square-foot jail to house 375 inmates initially. Double-bunking lets the jail house 670 inmates. The design allows for a future expansion that would increase jail capacity to more than 900 inmates.
Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or firstname.lastname@example.org