Proposal calls for new Richmond jail at old site

By Tara Morgan - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - In what has sparked a lot of controversy, Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones is moving forward with a plan to build a new jail at the site of the old one.

Richmond City Council still has to approve the plan. It was one of four on the table and one that Mayor Jones says is in everyone's best interest. Council members and prosecutors want to make sure overcrowding issues, which have plagued this jail, will be addressed.

Mayor Jones set the wheels in motion for a new city jail during a council luncheon Monday. Over the next 90 days, his administration will select a team to negotiate terms and conditions of the $137 million project.

"Most notably we received approval from state board of corrections to renovate and construct the jail where it is," said Mayor Jones.

Four construction companies will be vying to build the facility to include just over one thousand beds with room to grow. Right now the jail has a capacity of nearly 900 beds but overcrowding has been longtime problem.

"It is very imperative that we take a hard look at the people coming into our jail in city of Richmond," said Sheriff C.T. Woody.

Richmond Commonwealth's Attorney Mike Herring says with a smaller jail population, police and prosecutors will have to be smarter about who is sent to jail. Herring says they could free up jail space by using home electronic monitoring for low risk offenders and place inmates with underlying mental illnesses in a supervised treatment facility in the community.

"We've got to spend more time on the front end making sure people who ought to be in jail and not simply reacting to a set of charges a lot less autopilot and a lot more deliberation," said Herring.

The proposal will have to be first approved by Richmond City Council. Mayor Jones wants to break ground on the new jail in September 2011.

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