Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren (Counties) Regional Jail (RSWRJ) discussed fiscal year 2023 budget variables, whether to seek American Correctional Association (ACA) certification, and consequences of drug overdoses. opioids from inmates at the facility and a death, among other matters at its April 28 meeting. And while the discussion of “personnel matters” related to the “secretion” of these opioid drugs continues to take place behind closed doors, it spilled over into the reconvened public meeting after an hour and fifty minutes behind closed doors.
It came when the only one of the council’s three county sheriffs present for the 2 p.m. meeting, Shenandoah County Sheriff Tim Carter, brought a motion ‘to remove’ RSW Jail Regional Superintendent Russ Gilkison “from his post immediately”. Carter prefaced his motion by acknowledging that he knew it probably wouldn’t have enough support to even go to a vote. And he was right, the motion died without a second from the other eight council members present.
Following the adjournment of the sitting Royal Examiner asked Sheriff Carter for making the motion he seemed to acknowledge knowing he would have no support. “I think we need new leadership in this position. I think he put our communities and the board in a bad position. And I’ve heard enough of these closed meetings to make me think I don’t trust him.
However, two other board members expressed a different view after the meeting. “Superintendent Gilkison has my full confidence. He masterfully managed the RSW Regional Jail and I firmly believe he has done and continues to do the best for the inmates, staff and communities served by the facility, a balance that can be very difficult to reach,” the Authority Chairman and Rappahannock County Administrator said. Garrey Curry said Royal Examiner. Curry noted that he was speaking for himself and not as chairman of the board as a whole.
Asked about Carter’s motionless death without a second, Warren County Administrator and Board Member Ed Daley said, “Both incidents (December 12, 2021, the overdose death of Jonte Smith and March 1, 2022 death of inmate Kacey Kerns in a possible suicide attempt) demonstrate the importance of having procedures in place and ensuring they are followed. We discussed the State Department of Corrections compliance report in March. It was very positive. The American Correctional Association (ACA) provides accreditation for correctional facilities that meet various standards. Russ gathered information regarding ACA standards and shared what he has with us at the meeting. We requested additional information regarding the value and cost of ACA accreditation versus state accreditation. The superintendent and his staff are clearly on task and leading the council in a positive direction. »
The closed session motion included in the meeting agenda record reads: “Closed session in accordance with (code) 2.2-3711 A1 for discussion of personnel matters involving the performance of ‘specific personnel who have been implicated in the recent deaths in custody’. However, a late addition was added regarding “the possibility of litigation related to inmate deaths”.
Knowing he couldn’t comment on details of an ongoing investigation into staffing issues related to recent fatal incidents, specifically drug smuggling at the facility, we asked Superintendent Gilkison about prison policy. RSW in search of inmates entering the prison who were in place at the time the drugs involved are believed to have been smuggled into the RSWRJ in early December. He provided Royal Examiner with pre-overdose incident facility entry research policy guidelines. These guidelines, from which the excerpts below have been taken, were implemented on February 24, 2020, superseding “all previous rules and regulations relating to the subject” at the RSWRJ.
Searches without clothes
1. Strip searches will be conducted on all general population inmates returning from court, regardless of jurisdiction, as well as all newly incarcerated inmates who will be assigned to general population. This is an effort to prevent contraband from entering the facility; examples include, but are not limited to, the following:
- After receiving information directly from the arresting officer that the subject being arrested may be concealing weapons, drugs or contraband.
- Subject has a history of concealing contraband, weapons, or drugs.
- Subject has prior or current charges involving drugs, weapons, or contraband.
- Has been incarcerated at another facility and is being transferred to the custody of RSW Regional Jail. This includes those who appear in court overnight in other jurisdictions.
- Any outside inmates removed from the program will be strip searched when they return to RSW Regional Jail.
19. According to Virginia Code 19.2-59.1, no person in custody for a traffic violation, a class 3 or class 4 misdemeanor, or a violation of an ordinance of the city, county, or county the city, liable to a maximum of thirty (30) days in jail, will be strip searched while incarcerated, unless there is reasonable cause to believe by an officer in charge of law enforcement that the individual is concealing a weapon.
1. All persons, once incarcerated in the prison and upon completion of classification and medical examinations, will be searched without clothing before moving into general population housing. No individual should be moved to the general population until it has been searched without clothing.
At its March meeting, the RSWRJ Authority approved the acquisition of scanners designed to augment full body and body cavity searches. the Tek84 Intercept Full Body Security Scanning System was approved for purchase at an initial cost of $149,000 with funding split between the prison’s general fund and the commissioner’s fund. It was noted that in the current fiscal year 2022, approximately $159,000 in additional bed rental fees were collected from projected revenues for the full fiscal year. Part of this surplus would be applied to the General Fund contribution to the purchase. After the expiration of the initial three-year parts, labor, and maintenance contract, an annual maintenance cost of $7,500 per year was expected. There were no dissenting votes to buy.
Also at 2 p.m. on April 28and At the meeting, as noted by Ed Daley above, the RSWRJ Board of Directors discussed whether to seek accreditation from the American Correctional Association (ACA). Information presented to the board indicated that of a total of 59 prisons in Virginia, only 9 currently hold ACA accreditation. This includes 2 of the 23 regional prisons and 7 of the 36 local prisons. With an annual cost of $13,500 associated with obtaining and maintaining official certification, the board decided that additional information was needed before making a decision. It has been observed that a number of prisons that had applied for and obtained certification have since lost or abandoned it.
It would be useful to research information on why prisons that had applied for accreditation and then voluntarily dropped it would be useful to understand the perceived disadvantages of formal membership. It was noted that a prison might seek to self-regulate to ACA standards without formal participation or accreditation from the national organization.
With respect to the prison’s proposed FY23 budget of approximately $16 million, like Commonwealth Municipalities, RSW Regional Prison is awaiting final approval of a state budget. With state contributions still pending, the Board and Finance and Personnel Committee are working with two Cost of Living Act (COLA) increases, one to 10%, the other at 5%. It was predicted that the likely outcome of state funding would lead to an increase of 5% or 4%. A vote has been postponed, likely to next month’s meeting. The possibility of a working session before this meeting at the end of May to cover a final draft proposal, hopefully with the actual state number to fill in, was discussed.
In other matters, during his superintendent’s report, Gilkison told the board that there are currently no cases of COVID at the facility. However, entry screenings and quarantines are still being observed as a precaution. Works release crews are still traveling various neighborhood roads for trash pickup, which has been welcomed by affected neighborhoods, Gilkison told the council. The facility is still processing over 40 vacancies, some of which arose with the onset of the COVID pandemic.
Prior to the late afternoon adjournment, the next meeting dates of May 26, July 28 and September 22 were set. All board meetings are held at 2 p.m., usually after a finance and personnel committee meeting at 1:30 p.m., as was the case this month.