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D.C. meets on jail issue

Published 8:16pm Wednesday, September 11, 2013

A team of officials from Western Tidewater was set to meet in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday with the U.S. Marshals Service regarding the removal of federal inmates from the Western Tidewater Regional Jail.

The federal government notified the jail in August it would begin moving federal inmates to Virginia Beach on Oct. 1 in an effort to save money after the Virginia Beach jail made an offer of a lower rate than the Western Tidewater jail charges to house the inmates.

However, the moves began the very next week, until political intervention put a stop to it.

The jail receives $65 per inmate, per day from the federal government for housing its inmates and also charges for transporting inmates to and from court appearances and other facilities. However, Virginia Beach made an offer of $55 including transportation.

The jails use the revenue stream to fill the gap between other funding sources and the actual cost of running the jails.

Some costs, such as food, go down with fewer inmates, but most of the jail’s budget is in personnel. It already has lost $133,000 with the drop from the budgeted average of 165 federal prisoners per day, Superintendent William Smith said in Wednesday’s meeting of the Western Tidewater Regional Jail Authority. On Wednesday, 143 federal prisoners were at the jail. The total average daily population of the jail in June was 741.

“In the past couple years, with the economy, we’re reduced really to bare bones,” Smith said.

The eventual hit to the budget could be as much as $3 million if all the inmates are taken at the end of September as per the original federal plan, Smith added. Suffolk, Franklin and Isle of Wight County all send prisoners and funding to the regional jail.

Drew Wade, a spokesman for the U.S. Marshals, said last month the service’s budget has been cut, and more cuts are anticipated.

“The Marshals Service has to perform its core mission with less fiscal resources during this tough financial time,” Wade said. “We’re looking for opportunities to save or to reduce costs wherever possible, and that includes the detention of our federal prisoners.”

He declined to discuss the situation at specific jails.

Members of the local authority held off on making any decisions at Wednesday’s morning meeting because of the pending meeting late Wednesday afternoon in Washington.

They had previously delayed a decision at a special meeting last month, believing area politicians would be able to resolve the problem behind the scenes.

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