Henrico faces issues of overcrowded jails

Overcrowding at Henrico County Jails

HENRICO, VA (WWBT) - Henrico County jails are dealing with an overcrowding problem that’s only expected to increase in 2019.

During the county budget workshop meetings in March, the Henrico County Sheriff’s Office projected an average daily population of 1,451 for the 2019 fiscal year.

“Over the last few weeks, we’ve been sitting at roughly 1,380 to 1,400 inmates,” said Chief Deputy Alisa Gregory.

Henrico's east and west jails have a total of 1,341 beds. That means on any given day, Henrico is dealing with an overcrowding problem which they've actively been working to fix.

“We’ve purchased additional bunks, temporary bunks, to use in some of the day rooms,” Gregory said. “We’ve also established a relationship with Chesterfield Sheriff’s Office to house some of our females.”

Henrico and Chesterfield have an agreement to hold up to 30 women inmates at the Chesterfield facility.

Gregory added nationally there’s been an upward trend of women getting put behind bars, and it’s something Henrico jails can’t accommodate.

“Our jail was not designed to house the number of females we’re seeing on a constant basis,” she said.

At the Richmond City Jail, they have a total of 1,032 beds, with an average of 952 inmates from the 2017 fiscal year; FY 2016: 996 inmates on average; RY 2015: 970 on average; FY 2014: 1116 on average.

Numbers from Chesterfield Sheriff’s Office were not immediately available.

Gregory added the jail tends to see an increase in inmates on the weekend. This past weekend saw more than 100 new inmates booked at the east and west jails.

Not only is the overcrowding inconvenient but it also poses a safety issue for inmates and staff.

“Can these deputies manage the inmates they have, will they get out or escape,” Gregory said. “It’s a fair concern, but I think we go above and beyond trying to ensure we have the proper staffing to manage the inmates in the facility.”

In 2018 the Henrico County Sheriff’s Office had as many as 52 open vacancies at the jail; so far in 2019 they’re down to as few as 22 open positions.

As for why Henrico is seeing an increase, Gregory believes substance abuse problems are driving these men and women to commit crimes and ending up in jail.

“Our detox numbers have been steadily increasing, over the years with a steady rise in the number of inmates we’re detoxing off of opiates,” Gregory said.

In the last three months, the Henrico County Sheriff's Office has detoxed nearly 350 inmates from opiates.

In addition, the Sheriff’s Office has several programs focused on helping inmates recover from addiction through the R.I.S.E. and O.R.B.I.T. programs.

R.I.S.E. program: A three phase voluntary program started in August 2000 to help inmates address substance use, criminal behaviors and positive opportunities for recovery-based peer interactions.

O.R.B.I.T. program: A five phase program available to incarcerated inmates who are addicted to opiate based drugs. Once the court refers the inmate to the program, they will begin with a medical detoxification process and gradually focus on regaining control of their lives.

According to the Sheriff’s Office, the program has 148 participants; 62 have successfully completed the program; two have re-offended.

The hope is for these programs to prevent these men and women from becoming repeat offenders and eventually decrease the jail population.

Copyright 2019 WWBT. All rights reserved.