March 7, 2018
Supervisors mulling options to cut incarceration costs
Fauquier in fiscal 2019 will spend about $3.1 million to operate its jail and another $2.4 million to house inmates at the regional detention center near Winchester.
It all goes back to why did we get involved in a regional jail. If we needed a bigger jail, why didn’t we build it?
— Center District Supervisor Chris Granger
By The Numbers
Fauquier’s approximate fiscal 2019 cost to house inmates at Northwestern Regional Adult Detention Center near Winchester, which also serves Clarke and Frederick counties and the City of Winchester.
Proposed fiscal 2019 budget for Fauquier jail, which houses an average of 82 inmates.
Trips to transport Fauquier inmates to and from the regional jail.
Fauquier, Clarke, Frederick and Winchester inmates jailed today at the regional detention center.
Fauquier inmates jailed today at the regional detention center.
For about 20 years, Fauquier has operated a local jail while also sending inmates to the Northwestern Regional Adult Detention Center near Winchester.
On the face of it, that seems like an expensive duplication of government spending to Supervisor Chris Granger (Center District).
The county jail’s proposed fiscal 2019 budget totals $3.1 million. Based on use, Fauquier’s proposed share of the regional jail fiscal 2019 budget amounts to about $2.4 million.
That means Fauquier will spend about $5.5 million annually to house inmates at the county jail and regional center, which also serves the City of Winchester and Frederick and Clarke counties.
The county jail housed an average of 82 inmates per day in fiscal 2017; the regional jail today has about 103 Fauquier inmates.
Hoping to significantly cut Fauquier’s jail costs, Mr. Granger suggested during a budget work session Friday that the board consider shutting the two-story jail at 78 W. Lee St. or limiting its operation to a few holding cells.
Under those scenarios, Fauquier would house all or most of its inmates at Winchester.
“I want to see if we can implement any cost-saving measures,” Mr. Granger explained in an interview. “If there are advantages to operating a local jail, are there efficiencies we can build into a smaller footprint in Warrenton and move more prisoners to” Winchester.
But shutting the Warrenton jail appears unlikely, and shrinking the operation ultimately might not save Fauquier much, if anything, according to county officials.
For example, if Fauquier closed the jail, the county probably would lose about $1.1 million per year in state money, according to the sheriff’s office. That funding helps pay the 27 deputies and six civilians who work there housing inmates.
Deputy County Administrator Katie Heritage has contacted the Virginia Compensation Board to determine if, under a plan to close or downsize the jail, some of that money could be used to offset the additional cost of sending more inmates to Winchester.
The supervisors will continue to discuss the jail budget Tuesday, March 13, during a budget work session focused on public safety.
Ms. Heritage also hopes next week give the supervisors a cost estimate to house at the county jail five or six inmates to continue to maintain county grounds and perform other menial jobs.
Those inmates today provide about $250,000 worth of labor per year, according to the sheriff’s office.
Housing all Fauquier inmates in Winchester would increase “significantly” the cost of transporting inmates to and from Warrenton for court appearances, Ms. Heritage told the board.
Typically, deputies spend two or three days a week bringing prisoners to and from the regional detention center for court appearances in Warrenton, Ms. Heritage said in an interview.
With the jail closed, deputies would be on the road to and from Winchester four or five days a week, the deputy county administrator explained.
Other logistical challenges related to shutting the county jail could include housing and feeding inmates in Fauquier while they await court appearances, Ms. Heritage suggested.
Housing all inmates at the Winchester detention center — about 45 miles northwest of Warrenton — also would inconvenience attorneys, probation officers and others who routinely meet with defendants, the deputy county administrator said.
For those reasons, Sheriff Bob Mosier believes it would be impractical to shut the county jail.
But, “it’s a fair question” to ask about Fauquier’s incarceration costs, Sheriff Mosier said in an interview. “That’s what the budget process is about.”
He welcomes discussing ways to make the system more efficient, the sheriff added.
“It seems they’ve built in trapdoors everywhere that make it impossible to completely close” the county jail, Supervisor Granger said in an interview. “It all goes back to why did we get involved in a regional jail?
“If we needed a bigger jail, why didn’t we build it?”
Building a bigger jail today to serve all of Fauquier’s incarceration needs no longer remains an option, Mr. Granger acknowledged.
For one thing, withdrawing from the regional jail could cost Fauquier millions of dollars because of its bonded commitment toward capital improvements there.
Fauquier’s supervisors in 1996 proposed a new, four-story jail in Old Town at West Lee and Keith streets, where the sheriff’s office stands.
The building would have extended almost 280 feet along Lee Street.
But the town council and hundreds of citizens strongly objected to constructing the proposed 160-bed facility in the historic district.
Warrenton’s Architectural Review Board in November 1996 denied the county a “certificate of appropriateness” for the $14-million project.
The ARB ruled the 89,000-square-foot structure would fail to meet historic district standards because it would not conform with the predominant height, width and proportion of existing buildings in the area.
Agreeing, the town council two months later voted, 4-3, to uphold the ARB’s ruling.
After a public hearing on the matter in Warrenton Middle School’s auditorium, 120 people loudly applauded the council’s decision.
By then, the county had spent more than $300,000 in architectural and engineering fees.
The supervisors considered a few alternatives, including a smaller jail on the site and joining a regional jail in Stafford. But ultimately, the board decided to join to the Winchester regional jail in 1998.
Few Virginia localities operate a jail and participate in regional detention center.
Fauquier’s circumstance represents the “best of both worlds,” NRADC Superintendent James Whitley said.
“There’s a lot to moving prisoners,” Mr. Whitley said.
And, “from a security standpoint, you get rid of the ones that are a problem or need medical attention. You get to handpick your inmates. That’s a nice thing.
“If it were me, I’d keep the (county) jail.”
Vice Chairwoman Mary Leigh McDaniel (Marshall) gives the Center supervisor credit for asking “great questions”’ about the jail expenses.
While she remains unsure Mr. Granger “is going to get to where he was hoping it would go” to reduce jail costs, Ms. McDaniel believes: “We still need to investigate all options, because we have a challenging budget, and we need to make sure the taxpayers get the biggest bang for their dollars.”
But, “I don’t think we have the information yet” to consider potential ways to cut them, she said.
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Bnice7 · March 8, 2018 at 11:11 pm
I spoke about this 5 years ago! I am retired Jail Captain from Prince William County the money for housing and transporting inmates to and from court has to be costly in its current state. More importantly the risk factor for incidents rises when there are a lot of transporting of inmates. It seems to me that there needs to be a planning study conducted to gather data that identifies the total inmate count for fauquier and history of the average ADP to see what size facility would be needed to support the inmate population. Then compare the pros and cons for housing inmates locally. A Sheriff ran facility would receive about 25 percent reimbursement from the State if built by there standards and also receive funding for staffing for the total project cost. The other thing I would suggest is to look into programs that will aide in reducing recidivism such as intensive pretrial services. Bottom line is everybody wants to insure that offenders are incarcerated for crimes that warrent that but don't want a facility to be built close to their homes or businesses. One to two level facilities can be built with out violating historical codes. The benefits of redesigning the local jail and housing our own inmates would be a savings to the county's budget over a period of time. Just some suggestions!
nonewtaxes · March 8, 2018 at 1:10 pm
Jim Griffin · March 7, 2018 at 8:30 pm
It is not unusual in the US for a county or state to collect a daily fee from the incarcerated. The intended purpose is not punishment but cost recovery.
Tell It Like It Is · March 7, 2018 at 4:15 pm
How about stiffer penalties to curb some crime?
But no they get 3 hots, a soft bed, pillows and blankets, TV's, library, better healthcare than Obama created for the rest of us, and more at taxpayers expense.
We've become a nation wusses and some think all these people can be reformed. Ha.
If 13 is the age of reason, then all these people should have used some of that rationale.
Hard labor and capital punishment!
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