Jail’s $2.8M deficit may fall on Franklin, IOW, Suffolk

Published 8:03 am Friday, April 30, 2010

SUFFOLK—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,” Jail Superintendent David Simons told the Isle of Wight County Board of Supervisors earlier this week.

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.

Stan Clark, who represents the Newport District on the Board of Supervisors, said the “state needs to take a look at” how it views incarceration of offenders, who aren’t threats to the public. The jail is required to provide medical care for inmates, the cost of which could outweigh the offense in some cases, Clark said.

“I just don’t think people realize how expensive it is to incarcerate people and we need to make sure that what they’re in jail for is really worth spending that kind of money for,” he said.

Thomas Wright, who represents the Windsor District on the Board of Supervisors and also serves on the jail authority board, said the jail has been “a safe facility,” but he is concerned about the number of 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.