Mayor recommends developer for new jail

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – Tonight, a first look at the plans for a new Richmond City Jail. Richmond's mayor has picked a group to build the $135-million project. It now needs approval from the city council.

After sifting through 4 proposals, the mayor is recommending a plan that's about $11 million under the city's budget for a new jail off the current location on Oliver Hill Way.

Tompkins and Ballard are the mayor's top pick to replace this 47-year-old structure with a new state of the art building. It's 6 stories and will be built next to the current site so inmates won't have to be moved until the building is ready.

The designs shows it nestled near a slope and wooded area, to hide it from view from nearby Mosby Court. And the hundreds of feet of winding barbed wire will be removed. It will hold 1,032 beds, with the potential to expand to 1,600.

"I really wish that this was not on my watch. I mean we have other things to do with that kind of money, but when you look at what's going on there, you can't stand by and let that happen," said Mayor Dwight Jones.

He is referring to the inhumane conditions at the current jail. It's overcrowded, at times holding double the number of inmates it should, and there's no air conditioning. We've clocked temperatures well over a hundred degrees during the summer months.

"Of course the bricks and mortar are not going to solve the social issues, but with the state that the jail is in now, the way that it is - we definitely need a new jail," said Richmond Sheriff C.T. Woody.

"The design of the jail provides for education, for rehabilitation. It's not such a doleful place that a person will go in there and not want to get out and do better," Jones said.

The city's budgeted money for more ankle bracelets for home monitoring to keep non-violent offenders out of the new facility.

"We are trying to keep them out, those that are mentally ill, those that should be treated for drug addiction and things of that nature," Woody said.

This proposal needs approval from the Richmond City Council. Now the mayor is asking for a vote by July 25th so site work here can begin by the end of the year. Construction is expected to take just under two years.

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