PRINCE GEORGE, Va. (WWBT) - A local jail superintendent is stepping down due to what she calls “unfavorable conditions," and the Riverside Regional Jail board accepted Superintendent Carmen DeSadier’s resignation Thursday. Now, she’s speaking out about what she hopes to see happen at the jail now that she’s gone.
The former superintendent says she was brought in to help right some of the wrongs at Riverside but she claims it would be quickly evident she wouldn’t receive the support to do that.
"The jail needs an immediate overhaul,” DeSadier said.
DeSadier resigned Thursday after she says she faced continuous roadblocks in leading Riverside Regional Jail. She started in May of 2019 knowing she had her work cut out.
“They made it clear when they hired me that they understood the jail had some issues,” DeSadier said.
Those issues included two inmate deaths in 2017, prompting the jail to be put on probation by the state of Virginia for three years, as well as what DeSadier described as a $2 million budget shortfall which meant vacant positions.
“They didn’t have enough staff to run the jail effectively,” DeSadier said.
Desadier’s background includes working to turn around troubled jails, such as the Orleans Parish in New Orleans and Chicago’s Cook County Jail. She also serves as an auditor, making sure jails across the country are up to par.
On her first day at Riverside, DeSadier says she was taken aback by what she saw.
“No sooner than stepping inside of the kitchen, I immediately noticed the unsanitary conditions and it was pretty bad…dead rodents and traps,” DeSadier said. That’s in addition top of non-working appliances stored in the kitchen. "And they were infested with roaches,” she said.
Auditors happened to be on-site that same day. DeSadier says she asked for a grace period so her staff could get things straight. It was granted and the jail kept its accreditation.
As time went on, she would roam the halls of the jail. And one day, she noticed something odd.
“I heard a lot of screaming and banging,” DeSadier said. It was an inmate. "Her toilet was overflowing with urine and feces and it smelled horrendous. So when I ask the lieutenant 'why is this young lady deteriorating in this cell?’ She says, ‘well she’s waiting for a bed in mental health housing’. I said ‘how long has she been here waiting?’ [She replied] ‘Well she’s been here since Friday’. Well, it’s now Tuesday when I find her. I said ‘how long are you going to let her sit here like this?’ I had to order her to remove this young lady from these conditions and put her in a bed,” DeSadier said.
After a while, she says staff began complaining as she worked to change the culture. The jail’s board hired an outside law firm to investigate if the superintendent was the problem. DeSadier says the investigation cleared her of wrongdoing, but the push back and lack of what she calls support from higher-ups to address her concerns led her to say enough.
NBC12 was there when the board met to discuss parting ways with DeSadier. The chair of the board, March Altman, denied the request for an on-camera interview to address DeSaider’s concerns. He only commented on her departure.
"I think it’s kind of abrupt but we will move forward. She is doing what she thinks and feels is in her best interest and we respect that,” Altman said. He also serves as City Manager of Hopewell.
DeSadier left behind a 100 plus page summary of concerns she hopes the board will address to make Riverside better.
"My biggest concern is for the inmates because their basic needs are not being met,” she claimed.
The former superintendent plans to continue her work auditing other jails.
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