Jail makes proposal to keep federal inmates

Published 12:57 am Saturday, November 2, 2013

The Western Tidewater Regional Jail has submitted a proposal to the U.S. Marshal’s Service in an attempt to get back some of the federal prisoners it has lost to the Virginia Beach Jail.

Jail officials were notified in August the federal government would pull most of its prisoners from the jail. Reimbursements for keeping the prisoners represent a major funding source for the facility, which also takes inmates from Suffolk, Isle of Wight County and Franklin, which cooperate on the jail.

The reimbursements equal about $2.7 million annually. The three localities have been preparing to find the money — about $1.2 million for Suffolk for the remainder of this year.

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The marshals made the decision because Virginia Beach made an unsolicited proposal that undercut Suffolk’s rate.

However, Western Tidewater’s new proposal matches Virginia Beach’s — reimbursements of $55 per inmate, per day, including transportation for inmates. The proposal also requires a minimum of 75 inmates to be kept in Western Tidewater.

“We’ve been to several meetings with the marshals, and it was apparent they’re looking to reduce their costs,” Jail Superintendent William C. Smith said Friday.

The jail’s former rate was $65 per inmate, per day, plus transportation costs.

The process to review proposals usually takes two to three months, but proposals from Virginia have been expedited, Smith said.

If the proposal is accepted, it would be a cut from the current revenue but not as severe as it would have been, Smith said.

“If they accept it, we’ll be in a better position than we could have been,” he said.

Smith also said the jail authority is deciding between two options to reduce its dependence on federal inmate revenue.

The jail already has been budgeting for fewer inmates in the last few years, Smith said. However, it is considering a plan to budget on a lower number of inmates than expected and put the surplus in a reserve account to use in future budget cycles.

“I think we’re going down the right path,” Smith said. “It’s just unfortunate the marshals decided to get into a contract with someone else like they did.”