Facing shortfall, jail looks to communities for funding

Published 10:59 am Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The three communities served by Western Tidewater Regional Jail will have to spend more to house inmates next year, as the jail expects a $2.8 million budget deficit.

Suffolk, Franklin and Isle of Wight County use the jail. From the time the jail opened in 1992 until 2007, the three communities paid nothing to house inmates. However, the state been cutting funding and the jail has been housing fewer federal inmates, shifting costs to the localities.

“The members of the (jail authority) board have seen a big cost shift from the state to the locality,” said Jail Superintendent David Simons.

In 2008, the three localities paid a combined total of $364,506 for the jail. The communities are expected to be collectively responsible for $2.8 million of the jail’s $12.2 million operating and capital budget for fiscal year 2011.

Suffolk, Isle of Wight County and Franklin are billed based on the approximate percentage of the inmate population from each jurisdiction. Suffolk accounts for about 70 percent of the inmate population, while Franklin and Isle of Wight account for about 15 percent each.

Suffolk’s portion of the funding is more than $1.9 million, while Franklin and Isle of Wight County will be responsible for $421,250 each.

Thomas Wright, who represents the Windsor District on the Isle of Wight County Board of Supervisors and also serves on the jail authority board, said the jail needs more guards.

Currently the officer to inmate ratio is 1-to-5.4. The state recommends a ratio of 1-to-3.

“I’d hate to call somebody’s wife and tell them they got hurt because we didn’t have enough staff,” Wright said.