The COVID-19 pandemic continues to put more pressure on the inmates and staff at Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren Regional Jail.
Since March, the Virginia Department of Corrections has not taken into custody inmates convicted locally and sentenced to serve time in the state prison system, Superintendent Russ Gilkison told members of the RSW Regional Jail Authority Board on Thursday. The member jurisdictions cover the additional cost to house the inmates until the state department takes the prisoners into custody. The amount that the state reimburses to the local jail for holding the prisoners does not cover the entire cost, Gilkison said.
He reported to members of the authority board’s Finance and Personnel Committee that the jail recorded an average daily inmate population of 409 in October - 302 for Rappahannock, Shenandoah and Warren counties, and 107 for beds contracted with Culpeper and Page counties.
In October, 117 inmates convicted locally but sentenced to serve time in the state prison system remained at the regional jail, Gilkison said. Of that number, 44 inmates are considered “out of compliance,” meaning that the Virginia Department of Corrections has not yet taken custody of these people. Not including prisoners from Culpeper and Page counties, 30% of the jail’s local inmate population is out of compliance, Gilkison explained.
“With the DOC not taking inmates, it’s causing more of a backup for us here at the local jail, which is a cost that we’re incurring that really they should be incurring even though we get those (cost reimbursements), they obviously do not cover the cost of housing an inmate at the local jail,” Gilkison said.
The Department of Corrections has not taken custody of an inmate from RSW Regional Jail since mid-March, Gilkison said. The state agency usually would take two or three inmates per month, he said, adding that the local inmate population has been lower than it was a year or two ago as a result of COVID-19.
“But it’s still hard for the local facilities,” Gilkison said. “I’m in contact with the other superintendents across the state and we’re all having a hard time understanding why we continue to operate, but the state can go ‘we’re not going to take inmates because of COVID-19.’
“We don’t have that luxury,” Gilkison said. “I’m not sure why they do.”
The jail reported five inmates and no employees tested positive for COVID-19 as of Friday.
Also at the meeting, it was noted that the jail is running with 44 officer vacancies, which include 12 positions unfilled for savings. No applicants in October met the hiring requirements, Gilkison said. The jail participated in two career fairs in October but neither event attracted any applicants.
The RSW Regional Jail’s nursing director and a licensed practical nurse resigned in October, Gilkison said.
“We’re still functioning without that director of nursing,” he said. “One of our (licensed practical nurses) who’s been with us for several years – she was the junior manager of that department – she has stepped up and continued to keep things moving properly.
“We still have adequate coverage for all the shifts,” Gilkison added. “We’re not really in any kind of dire need.”
The jail continues to advertise the vacancies but interest in jobs at the facility usually slows down in winter months, he said.
The authority board attempted to meet after the committee adjourned. However, the board did not have a quorum of members in attendance at the regular meeting and could not vote or take other actions. The members in attendance still discussed jail matters but decided to schedule a special meeting in the coming weeks in the hopes of having a quorum.
Board Chairman Garrey W. Curry Jr., county administrator for Rappahannock County; and members Evan Vass, county administrator for Shenandoah County; Shenandoah County Sheriff Timothy C. Carter and Rappahannock County Supervisor Debbie Donehey attended the meeting. Not attending were RSW Board Vice Chairwoman and Warren County Supervisor Delores Oates; Edwin Daley, interim county administrator for Warren County; Rappahannock County Sheriff Connie S. Compton; Warren County Sheriff Mark Butler; Shenandoah County Board of Supervisors Chairman John R. “Dick” Neese.