PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — The Hampton Roads Regional Jail needs 113 additional officers and a full-time psychiatrist to comply with the findings of a Department of Justice investigation.

This is to satisfy a U.S. Department of Justice investigation that said staffing was needed for the jail to meet DOJ standards. 

The two-year investigation by the Justice Department concluded that conditions at the jail violate inmates’ basic constitutional rights and protections under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The department’s Civil Rights Division said the jail fails to provide adequate medical and mental health care for inmates. Officials have given the jail written notice and ways to fix conditions, all with the goal of ensuring the rights of prisoners.

It will come at a cost, and Portsmouth Sheriff Michael Moore says the regional jail plan to raise the money to pay for new officers will cost Portsmouth an estimated $1.46 million.

Moore says it is a terrible idea, it will cost Portsmouth taxpayers over a million dollars a year, it further works towards shutting down the Portsmouth Jail, and Portsmouth deputies could lose their jobs.

“I think that is even outrageous to be a consideration,” Moore said. 

Sheriff Moore says if the Hampton Roads Regional Jail raises fees to cities per inmate by $20, it’ll cost Portsmouth an extra $1.46 million a year. 

That $20 includes $2 that Portsmouth is already scheduled to pay in July. Sheriff Moore says it appears City Manager Lydia Pettis Patton supports the regional jail efforts.

“The statement our City Manager made in that meeting that Portsmouth can not afford two jails, and  that the regional jail is the better jail.” 

We called Patton for comment and response, but as is often the case in recent weeks, she has refused to return our calls.

She sits on the Hampton Roads Regional Jail Board that is considering the fee increase to pay for the 113 additional officers and a full time psychiatrist required by the Department of Justice. The cost for that is an estimated $7 million a year.

The Hampton Roads Jail Superintendent would not comment on the Board meeting on the fee increase, but emailed us a statement: 

Last Thursday, the Hampton Roads Regional Jail Authority held a special called meeting. The meeting consisted of approving minutes from the previous regularly scheduled Board Meeting and a closed session to discuss potential legal matters.  As a criminal justice professional, I believe integrity is of the upmost importance and as such, I do not feel that it is appropriate to comment on the matters discussed in a closed session.

It is my understanding that Sheriff Michael Moore stopped sending incarcerated individuals from his facility to the Hampton Roads Regional Jail at the beginning of this year due to the report issued by the United States Department of Justice in December, however there are currently over 80 individuals in the facility from the City of Portsmouth.  I think it is important to note that since taking the position of Superintendent, I have never been contacted by Sheriff Moore, his Undersheriff (Colonel Marvin Waters, Jr.), or any other Portsmouth Sheriff’s Office staff member regarding the Department of Justice report or any concerns they have regarding the care and treatment of those incarcerated here at the regional jail.  Additionally, to my knowledge, any concerns or issues they may have, have not been brought up with any other Board Member or at any board meeting by Sheriff Moore or Colonel Waters, as neither has been in attendance at a board meeting since June of 2018. It is important to know that I am regularly contacted by the other member jurisdictions’ Sheriffs and/or their staff whenever there is a concern or issue that they feel needs to be addressed.

As for Patton, the sheriff told us, “She wants our jail completely closed down, and then to move everyone to the regional jail, and what they do not understand is you would still have to build a structure to house inmates leaving Portsmouth City Jail and going to the regional jail.”

The constant battle is the Portsmouth City Jail is located on the Elizabeth River, and sits on valuable property rich for development.

Sheriff Moore Agrees with moving the Portsmouth CIty Jail. “We are for relocation, but not closing. If we do that we have 100-plus deputies who could lose their jobs, and the community will lose critical services that we help provide.”

Sheriff Moore says he has proposed to City Manager Lydia Pettis Patton taking Portsmouth inmates out of the Regional Jail and putting them back in the Portsmouth jail to save the city money. He claims, “even before I finished the thought, she said, ‘It can’t be done.'”

The sheriff also says, “We are not at full capacity in the Portsmouth jail, and we could be of assistance to the Regional Jail.  We have capacity of 288, but we only have 244 inmates. We could take back 44 from the Regional Jail and save tens of thousands over the course of a year.” 

It should also be noted that Portsmouth is billed for 250 inmates, but only has 84 inmates at the Regional Jail.