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Monday, February 9, 2015

Middle River Jail Deal: Good News And Bad News

Middle River Regional Jail, Verona, Virginia
Our local politicians are negotiating a $21.5 million deal with the Middle River Regional Jail for 150 of their inmate beds as an alternative to our building a second $63 million jail near the County landfill. As a part of the deal, within a ten year period that number could increase to 250 beds.

The Good News

This does save a fair amount of taxpayer money (though less than that reported in Friday's DNR editorial), and could free more local resources for programs that better prevent problems associated with a 500% increase in our jail numbers over the pat two decades (in spite of our having only a 25% increase in population). There may also be some opportunity to work with MRRJ for better mental health and rehabilitation services there than we have been able to come up with in our local facility, along with the possibility of an active work release program we haven't seemed to be able to offer.

The Bad News

This plan assumes an ever increasing need for more incarceration space. If we were to rigorously pursue proven programs (actually outlined in the Moseley report), like Drug and Mental Health Courts, Day Reporting, a bail bond release rate that is more consistent with national numbers, and/or the use of ankle bracelet technology for home incarcerations, our numbers could and should drop, as they have in Arlington County, for example, rather than inevitably increase.

My fear is that our community will now declare any need for more jail bed space to be resolved and that our pattern of over-incarceration will remain unchanged. To me, that would be a lamentable outcome indeed.
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