Following briefings on the investigation into the in-custody deaths of two inmates at the Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren Regional Jail, one member of the jail board believes that changes should be made with top leadership.

Shenandoah County Sheriff Timothy Carter made a motion after a closed session of the Authority Board's meeting last month to remove jail Superintendent Russell Gilkison from his position.

No one seconded the motion and no vote was taken at the April 28 meeting.

Carter said he made the motion for several reasons, one of them being that inmates have set up a communication system with people outside the jail that lets them discuss new inmates and how inmates were being moved within the jail.

The communication system gives inmates an advantage over staff and Carter’s deputies putting personnel in harm's way, Carter said.

“I’ve heard enough,” Carter said. “I think we need new leadership.”

Gilkison was appointed to the position in 2017 after the jail opened in 2014.

Gilkison could not be reached for comment in response, but board Chairman Garrey Curry said by phone interview Monday that Gilkison is 100% capable of doing the job.

“I am satisfied,” Curry said.

The closed session at the recent meeting was to discuss an internal, administrative investigation into the in-custody deaths of Jonte Smith, 21, who fatally overdosed in December, and Kacey Dawn Kerns, 28, who died as a result of a self-inflicted wound in March.

Jail Deputy Superintendent Steven Weaver said by phone interview Tuesday the internal investigation into Smith's death was finished and the internal investigation into the death of Kerns was nearly complete.

But discussions with the jail's legal counsel were ongoing as to what could be released to the public, since the investigation involved personnel matters, Weaver said. with a decision on it potentially being made next week,

At a previous meeting, the Warren County Sheriff’s Office discussed in a lengthy closed session a criminal investigation on Smith's death, which lead to the indictments of Brian Martin, 34, and Daniel Shifflett, 32, on murder and distribution charges for their role in drugs getting into the jail and being used by Smith. Shifflett also overdosed, but was revived.

The problem of inmates sneaking drugs into the jail continues.

In April, Dennis Painter, 27, was indicted for drug possession by a prisoner after he conspired with another inmate to have suboxone strips put inside clothing sent to him.

“We do have a big problem but the investigations at the Sheriff’s Department, in conjunction with the jail, have moved very aggressively to try to put a stop to this,” Warren County Commonwealth's Attorney John Bell said in a recent phone interview before the board meeting. “The jail is making policy changes and is upgrading equipment to make sure that this doesn’t happen again."

Curry also pointed out the changes made by the jail, which include approving the purchase of a body scanner to use on incoming inmates to act as a deterrent for those who may attempt to sneak drugs into the jail, as well as a recent 100% compliance audit report. The jail has also recently stopped accepting undergarments from people outside the jail.

The board has also discussed having the facility accredited by the American Correctional Association at the meeting, beyond being accredited only by the state’s Department of Criminal Justice Services currently.

The jail is currently experiencing staffing shortages, while also accepting inmates from other jurisdictions for a bed rental fee. Smith was an inmate from Culpeper, one of the jurisdictions renting bed space.

Also at the meeting, the board discussed its budget proposal for next year. One proposed version is $16.3 million with a 5% cost of living increase and another is a $16.7 million version with a 10% cost of living increase to make jobs at the jail more attractive.

No action on the budget proposals was taken as the board awaits for the state to finalize its budget, which would include funding amounts for the facility.

Contact Charles Paullin at

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