I Went to Jail!


I went to jail for the first time and not for any crime but to cover a story. Matt Gregory pitched one of the most interesting stories during the morning meeting on Hampton Roads Regional Jail being understaffed and the state of Virginia possibly amending a bill that will increase funding for jails.

As many episodes as I’ve watched of “Beyond Scared Straight” and “60 Days In,” I thought I had a sense of what jail was like but I knew this was a great opportunity to visit one for the first time, and from a guards perspective.

This was my first time working with Matt so we took the time to get to know one another, then jumped right into the story. After researching and learning more about the topic and the new bill, I became curious on how the jail operated with such a small number of staff for so many inmates.

We arrived at the Hampton Roads Regional Jail and we met with the assistant superintendent Linda Bryant. She thanked us for shedding light on the issue, and proceeded to tell Matt about how the jail operated. We entered the office of the new superintendent Ronaldo Myers to conduct the interview.

During the interview I observed how Matt asked his questions, and the reaction and responses from Myers. It seemed the biggest issue was the fact that they are understaffed which leads to an increase of harmful events with the inmates due to the lack of supervision. I was shocked when he told us only one guard is assigned to nearly 120 inmates.

Myers believes that if the bill is passed the increase in staff will reduce the number of problems he already has on his plate. Myers also emphasized during the one year in his position he noticed the facility needed to improve medically, and that is what the first thing he focused on.

Three guards escorted us around the facility, I was excited yet nervous that something bad was going to happen to me. We walked through the main door where an officer asked for our names to log us in. Then we walked through a second door where 3 inmates were walking in their green jumpsuits. I immediately began to panic in my head but I tried to maintain the smile on my face.

We entered the pod where inmates with serious mental health issues reside. Matt interviewed staff manager Winston Bhagirath. He shared his desperate need for more staff. He also mentioned the many benefits for inmates and how much easier his job could be if he had more staff.

Visiting a jail for the first time was an eye opener, but I enjoyed my experience there knowing that as a future journalists I had the opportunity to shed light on an issue that needs to be resolved.

You may contact Ya-Marie Sesay via e-mail at Ya-marie.sesay@wavy.com or on twitter @Sesayyamarie

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