WTRJ officials submit proposal to U.S. Marshals

Published 1:16 pm Saturday, November 2, 2013

Western Tidwater Regional Jail in Suffolk. -- COURTESY | SUFFOLK NEWS HERALD

Western Tidwater Regional Jail in Suffolk. — COURTESY | SUFFOLK NEWS HERALD

SUFFOLK—In an attempt to compete with the Virginia Beach jail that had bid on U.S. Marshal Service federal inmates, the Western Tidewater Regional Jail has submitted a new proposal that lowers its rates, but also helps curtail the budget shortfall that would have occurred if all of the federal inmates transferred.

The proposal lowers the jail’s per day rate per inmate from $65 to $55. Further, the Marshal Service has to keep a minimum of 75 inmates in the jail, said WTRJ Superintendent William C. Smith. The jail will also cover transportation costs.

In August, the Marshal Service shocked the WTRJ officials by accepting an unsolicited offer from the Virginia Beach sheriff that would allow them to save some money. In doing so, it sent a shockwave through the communities that support the Western Tidewater Regional Jail. They would have to pay for the shortfall the change would create to the jail’s budget. WTRJ’s budget figures for 165 federal inmates in the facility on average.

Franklin, Isle of Wight County and Suffolk are the three localities that support the jail. The shortfall would have cost Suffolk $1.6 million, and Franklin and Isle of Wight County $350,000. To pay for that shortfall, taxes could have been raised, services cut, or both.

Smith said that the jail is not out of the water yet, but the situation is looking a lot better than in August.

“I’m confident they will accept our new proposal, and if they do, it is just a matter of what the population will be,” he said. “Depending on the numbers, it will vary on how significant the loss will be as to whether we can absorb it or not.”

Smith said that the Marshal Service has confirmed they have the proposal, and that typical procedure would be to give a response in 30 to 90 days. However, he was told that the service has expedited the procedure, so news could be in sooner.

Down the road, Smith said, they would like to reduce their reliance on federal inmates.

“Last month, the average daily population of federal inmates was 150,” he said. “That’s down from 200 a few years ago.

“We are looking at other options as well. There are cities and counties with overcrowded jails, and we have available bed space.”

Franklin Ward 1 Councilor Barry Cheatham agreed.

“There is a decline in the number of federal prisoners available,” he said. “We have to be proactive on that, or it will hurt our budget.”

Cheatham added that it is a good jail.

“We are consistently receiving 100 percent ratings from both federal and state officials,” he said. “That’s not easy to do. We are also good at getting inmates to and from the jail on time, which many jails struggle with.”