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Friday, December 18, 2015

Channel 29 Deserves Praise For MRRJ Series


Jennifer Smith died in a segregated cell at MRRJ October, 2013
TV29 reporter Tara Todd's investigative series on health care at nearby Middle River Regional Jail finally aired this week. She had worked tirelessly on this project for months, and the station's attorneys painstakingly pored over every detail before it came out on their local news Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

The result is a sobering expose' of how a lack of appropriate medical care resulted in two inmates losing their lives and another, after begging repeatedly to be taken to the hospital due to severe pain, was found to have an advanced case of colon cancer upon his release.

Here's  a summary of concerns as compiled from yesterday's segment:

1. The Sheriff was never called to investigate the 2013 death of Jennifer Smith, mentally ill mother of four, even though the jail's stated policy is to do so to make sure a death isn't caused by criminal activity. It is also questionable whether they followed the appropriate protocol for withdrawal from the medication she had been on, and no one called 911 after she had had a seizure resulting from the withdrawal.  

2.  The jail's doctor, who lives two hours away, visits MRRJ only every other week. Even with a $85,ooo annual contract he put in a total of only 30 days at MRRJ last year, while being responsible for over 700 inmates. Their nursing staff, mostly LPN's, is smaller than that of the Albermarle Regional Jail, with two-thirds of the number of inmates.

3. MRRJ spends under $4 per inmate per day for medical care, while the average for Virginia jails is $8.50.  

4. MRRJ regularly underspends its total medical budget. In a recent year it did so by more than $170,000, and has underspent its prescription budget alone by as much as $75,000 per year. The savings go back into general MRRJ operations.

We also learn from the interview that the Virginia Department of Correction can "only make suggestions" and has no direct oversight of local or regional jails.

On another note, MRRJ's attorney, featured in the third segment, also appears to be a lobbyist for MRRJ. See link here http://www.vpap.org/lobbying/client/135104-middle-river-regional-jail/

Journalist Tara Todd (photos courtesy TV 29) 


You can view each of the news segments via the links below:

Here's a link to a copy of a recent complaint letter signed by 19 femaie inmates at MRRJ.
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