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Regional jail proposal languishes

Published 10:38am Friday, December 20, 2013

TRACY AGNEW/NEWS EDITOR
tracy.agnew@suffolknewsherald.com

SUFFOLK—A proposal that the Western Tidewater Regional Jail made to the U.S. Marshals Service nearly two months ago to keep federal inmates at a lower rate has yet to be officially accepted, the jail’s superintendent told City Council members during their Wednesday work session.

Regional jail officials were notified in August the federal government would pull most of its inmates from the jail after the Virginia Beach jail made a bid that undercut Western Tidewater’s rate.

The regional jail, which is supported by Suffolk, Franklin and Isle of Wight County, would have lost millions of dollars per year. However, political maneuvering got the plan temporarily stopped while the jail worked to find a solution.

Local jails keep federal inmates and receive a set rate from the federal government for doing so. Western Tidewater’s former rate was $65 per inmate, per day, plus transportation costs, but its new bid matched Virginia Beach’s — $55 per inmate, per day, including transportation to court appearances and other obligations for the inmates.

The move came in the midst of an already-falling federal inmates population in the region — down to 225 from about 400, Superintendent William C. Smith said Wednesday.

Smith told City Council members that several jails submitted proposals around the same time, and he has not officially heard how Western Tidewater’s fared.

Even if the offer is accepted, the worst-case scenario caused by the reduced rate would mean a $2.4 million shortfall for the jail in the next fiscal year, $1.6 million of which would be Suffolk’s burden.

In the meantime, officials on the local, state and national levels have lobbied the U.S. Marshals Service to reverse the decision. Other cost-cutting and revenue-generating measures are also in the works.

Smith said he hopes to hear soon how the proposal has been received.

Councilman Charles Parr said he believed Smith and others, including Sheriff Raleigh Isaacs Sr., had done a good job responding to the situation.

“In the end we are a little behind, but I think we’re going to improve,” he said.

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