Missing the marshals

Published 9:22 pm Saturday, September 14, 2013

The other day, local representatives drove to Washington, D.C., to meet with congressmen and other federal officials about a possible costly shortfall involving the area’s connection to Western Tidewater Regional Jail. The powwow had reportedly been planned for two weeks.

Guess who didn’t show? The U.S. Marshals Service canceled at the proverbial last minute.

No explanation was apparently given to the men and women who made the time to drive north. They had to hear it through the congressmen.


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Isle of Wight Sheriff Mark Marshall called that cancellation “very disappointing” and “frustrating” in an interview with The Tidewater News. Western Tidewater Regional Jail Superintendent William C. Smith said Thursday in an interview with the Suffolk News-Herald that the marshals’ absence was “disappointing.” The words that come to our mind are “unprofessional” and “insulting” on the part of those who evidently snubbed the attendees.

What’s at stake is the U.S. Marshals Service’s plan to take inmates from WTRJ and transfer them to a site in Virginia Beach. The move is happening because of an unsolicited proposal by the sheriff of Virginia Beach to house many of WTRJ’s federal prisoners in his facility.

The move would cost the regional facility $2.3 million this fiscal year. In turn, Suffolk, Franklin and Isle of Wight, which operate the jail together, would have to find money in their respective budgets to make up for the shortfall. Even a jail in Virginia’s Northern Neck would be affected.

To the credit of those who participated, the meeting was still considered productive, but more could have been accomplished.

All is not lost, as apparently some more meetings including the marshals are scheduled. One was planned for Friday, and The Tidewater News reported that a reprieve had been obtained from the originally proposed Oct. 1 start date for the transfer.

Even Sheriff Marshall is hopeful that a mutually agreeable solution could be found, particularly when the congressmen such as U.S. Reps. Randy Forbes, Bobby Scott, Rob Wittman and Scott Rigell become more involved. Their help has been duly noted.

We hope to eventually say the same for the Marshals Service.