Marshal Service agrees to suspend inmate transfer

Published 12:12 pm Saturday, September 14, 2013

FRANKLIN—In a meeting with the Virginia Sheriff’s Association on Friday, two U.S. Marshal Service representatives said they would allow a stay on the original Oct. 1 deadline to remove federal inmates. This way the service could examine the situation and determine the best resolution.

Robert Mathieson, marshal for the Eastern District of Virginia, and Eban Morales, assistant director for prisoner operations, addressed the Virginia Sheriff’s Association at its annual meeting in Norfolk to discuss the situation regarding moving federal prisoners to a jail in Virginia Beach. Southampton County Sheriff Jack Stutts and Isle of Wight Sheriff Mark Marshall were at this meeting.

“Because of the uproar here in Hampton Roads, they’re still looking at the entire process. They still want time to analyze,” he said. “They’re standing down for now.”

Marshall agreed it’s a reprieve, but he doesn’t know for how long.

“But to be very clear to their credit, they acknowledged the communication wasn’t what it should be,” Marshall said. “They also acknowledged they need the partnership with sheriffs and regional jails.”

One of the jails affected by this move is the Western Tidewater Regional Jail in Suffolk. Franklin, Suffolk and Isle of Wight are localities that support it. The move of federal prisoners will create an operational shortfall that the three supporting localities would have to fund.

In Franklin and in Isle of Wight, a full year’s loss is an estimated $409,256, while based on the Oct. 1 move date, the loss for a partial year would be approximately $350,000. This could potentially force a raise in property taxes in both areas, force them to cut services, or both.

“They gave no guidance on what if anything local jurisdictions can do in interim time,” said Franklin City Manager Randy Martin, who was not at the meeting. “I am encouraged by the stay, but I would like to know how long that will be. Hopefully, that will come out of discussion in the weeks ahead.

“It takes away the urgency, but there is no indication of the long term, which is a big concern.”

There are 400 federal inmates in this section of Virginia, historically, that has been as high as 700, the Marshal Service reported at the meeting.

“That does give us some pause,” Martin said. “One message it sends is we have to evaluate how reliant we can be, with such uncertainty going forward in our budgets, on federal prisoners.”