Regional jail addresses issues, still has vacancies

By Henry Culvyhouse

FRONT ROYAL– Some problems that have plagued the new Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren Regional Jail were addressed during Thursday’s Jail Authority Board meeting.

Warren County Sheriff Daniel McEathron noted at the meeting that the chief magistrate has not been issuing warrants to correctional officers so that they can investigate violations within the facility, such as assaults of guards or possession of controlled substances. Due to this, the Warren County Sheriff’s Office has been investigating crimes committed in the jail.

McEathron said he has met with the magistrate and after reviewing the legal code, correctional officers can now get warrants at the facility.

“It’s a learning curve, so everybody has to get adjusted to the new way of doing things,” McEathron said. “If you absolutely need us, we’ll come, especially if it’s a death investigation or a riot.”

In terms of staffing, the jail is still trying to fill 26 vacancies, mostly correctional officers. Newly hired jail superintendent William Wilson said the main challenge with hiring correctional officers is that the Department of Criminal Justice Services does not recognize Department of Corrections-trained officers as being the equivalent of regional jail officers. Currently, DOC-trained officers will have to return to the Correctional Officer Academy.

“There is some language written by the DOC to the CJS that indicates we might be able to put officers through a modified program instead of putting them through the academy,” Wilson said.

Also noted Thursday, the jail now provides mental health services to inmates as a result of the hiring of a mental health counselor. Warren County Executive Douglas Stanley said the handling of mental health care at the jail has been a source of criticism.

“We’ve had people show up to meetings saying there is no mental health services at the jail,” Stanley said. “I just want to make it clear that we now offer counseling, and we can get prescriptions filled for inmates.”

Once cameras are installed in the jail’s classroom, religious services will be offered to inmates. Currently, a non-denominational Christian minister visits the jail to meet with inmates. Wilson said the jail is reaching out to members of the clergy to get services for inmates.

“We’re currently talking to a member of the Muslim faith in D.C., as well as rabbis, pastors and priests,” Wilson said. “We have Bibles on the canteen list and we hope to get the Gideons in here as well.”

The board also moved to have meetings in 2015 on a bimonthly basis.

As of Thursday, the jail had a head count of 330 inmates.

Contact staff writer Henry Culvyhouse at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or at hculvyhouse@nvdaily.com