Advocates say Hampton Roads Regional Jail isn’t making quick enough progress on reforms

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PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — Mental heath advocates, members of the ACLU and a local NAACP president came together Thursday to check on the progress of improving inmate conditions at the Hampton Roads Regional Jail.

The advocates were not happy with the amount of progress, or the urgency leaders seem to have about making improvements.

The jail has been in the spotlight after years of untimely deaths followed by a scathing report in December by the Department of Justice

“It doesn’t seem like there’s been real, real progress in terms of some of the institutional things that were happening in the jail then and are happening on the jail now” said James Boyd, president of the Portsmouth NAACP.

Boyd was particularly unhappy with the progress and called for legal action to be taken and justice for those who died in this jail unnecessarily. 

The ACLU was not happy with the progress either. 

“The colonel was very gracious to meet with us but we’re not satisfied with the answers we received and we really are demanding that we see some real action and a plan moving forward,” said Bill Farrar with the ACLE of Virginia. “All of our organizations individually and collectively have offered to be a resource to him as he develops better policies, protocols if they need funding we’ll advocate for that but we got to fix this there are people in there suffering right now.” 

Farrar went on to describe the suffering they saw today. He describes inmates calling out to them for help as they walked through the facility. “People who are incarcerated are yelling through the wall for us to help them.”

Many of the inmates at HRRJ deal with mental health issues. Representatives from the National Alliance of Mental Health and Mental Health America took part in the tour and the meetings Thursday. 

“We were hoping that we would see some kind of strategic activity. I think they have ideas but we really needed more of specificity of what that actually means,” said Rhonda Thissen with the National Alliance of Mental Health.  

Thissen said she hopes for more frequent meetings and updates on improvements at the jail. 

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