City leaders tour alternative jail program

By Rachel DePompa - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

WASHINGTON, D.C. (WWBT) - Richmond is turning to the nation's capital for ideas on how to change its prison system. Several city leaders took a bus trip to D.C. to tour an alternative jail program that helps inmates transition back into society.

We are in southeast D.C at the Re-entry and Sanctions Center. A place the Jones administration is looking to for ideas on how to reduce overcrowding at the city jail while still giving the non violent offenders the help they need.

The Richmond city jail is bursting at the seams. It's supposed to house 850, but averages over 1,400 inmates a day.

"We've known that we have had this situation in Richmond for years and years and nobody's ever done anything about it," said Mayor Dwight Jones.

Key city leaders spent the day in the nation's capital to see a program that strives to keep people from behind bars. Inside this 8 story building, 98 people serve 1,200 former inmates each year.

They treat drug abusers and the mentally ill, while helping parole violators and non violent offenders get back on their feet.

"When you can put them under close supervision. Make them accountable there are so many positives that come out of that," said James Lanier, Program Director.

The city is setting aside 138 million to build a new jail. Now it's searching for ways to keep more people out of it.

"We want to make sure that we're not just building a jail to warehouse people because a lot of the people in our jail now. Are addicted people, homeless people, mentally ill people," said Jones.

For the city's top prosecutor a facility similar to this would save time and money.

"A lot of the burglaries a lot of the larcenies certainly many of the drug possession cases we would probably see those numbers shrink dramatically, if we were able to treat the abusers rather than send them back on the inside. And it would cost so much less," said Michael Herring, Richmond Commonwealth's Attorney.

The Jones administration plans to tour a total of three top rated facilities just like this one, and also planning visits to Durham, North Carolina and Newark, New Jersey.

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