Monday, February 22, 2010

Virginia Jailers Outraged Over Out-of-State Inmates

Virgina's regional prison authorities are outraged by the state's decision to house out-of-state inmates. The outrage comes as local jails are paying for a portion of the cost to house state prisoners.

According to the Virginia News-Advance, state law calls for transferring convicted felons to a state prison within 90 days of sentencing. Local jail officials and the Department of Corrections (DOC) concede that the requirement is rarely enforced. As of mid-February, approximately 4,327 state prisoners were in local jails awaiting removal to state prison, according to DOC figures. That’s an increase of about 57 percent from the same period last year.

While jail officials at the local level have been responsible for inmates awaiting transfer to state prison for years, the issue has become more urgent for two key reasons: the number of prisoners awaiting transfer has spiked, and budget cutbacks from the state have made the cost of supporting state inmates more difficult.

At the same time, local jail officials question a $20 million deal announced in December that will bring 1,000 inmates from Pennsylvania to Green Rock Correctional Center. The deal is a revenue producing effort to help the DOC function at its current capacity.

My Take

The state is generating revenue on the backs of local jails. The only way that Virginia has room in its state prisons for inmates from Pennsylvania is to house some 4,000 state prisoners in local facilities. Virginia's "slight of hand" revenue producer has one more component. The state intends to reduce the reimbursement it provides local jails for housing state prisoners. Now that's gratitude for helping raise $20 million in out-of-state revenue.

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