PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — Only on 10, Portsmouth Sheriff Michael Moore is speaking out on the possible closing of the Hampton Roads Regional Jail.
Last Friday, 10 On Your Side reported that he sent an email to members of the Portsmouth City Council that there will be an announcement of that at the Hampton Roads Regional Jail Authority’s September meeting.
He also expressed concern he had not been included in discussions this might happen by interim Portsmouth city manager Mimi Terry, who has not responded to request for comment for this story.
If the regional jail closes down and inmates are moved from here to what is now the regional jail, that will open up waterfront city property on the Elizabeth River, which could be the beginning of an economic development juggernaut.
When Sheriff Moore got word the Hampton Roads Regional Jail may close down
But here’s the problem.
Moore learned that Interim City Manager Mimi Terry was trying to negotiate deals with other cities to keep their inmates at the regional jail if it closes down.
Moore said there are so many empty beds in the Portsmouth Jail and the regional jail that Portsmouth should take over the regional jail and put inmates there.
He said he spoke to Terry about this on Sunday, May 28.
“I spoke to her on the telephone,” Moore said. “We need to put everything behind us, let’s work together because if we work together, it will help the city of Portsmouth and the citizens of Portsmouth. Let’s stop the in-fighting and the nonsense. Let’s sit down and have a discussion, and let’s move forward.”
10 On Your Side asked Moore with all his responsibility that, as the sheriff in charge of the Portsmouth Jail and the inmates, does he think Terry is being disrespectful of a duly-elected public official in charge of jail and inmates.
“I think she has been very disrespectful,” Moore said, “and my message to her is we are on the same team, and I have had that discussion with her.”
During our exclusive sit-down interview in his office, Moore also said that “we don’t need the jail space. We don’t need any additional jail space. … We can’t fill the beds now.”
Moore said there are loads of empty inmate beds in Portsmouth.
In fact, Portsmouth is spending more than $4 million to send seven Portsmouth inmates to the Hampton Roads Regional Jail as part of the regional cooperation to support the jail, when there are 103 open beds now in the Portsmouth jail.
“What comes to mind — the first thing that pops to my mind being a former government employee (is) waste, fraud and abuse,” Moore said. “That’s the first thing that pops to my mind, and it is a fight I have had for five-plus years.”
Currently, there are 185 inmates in a Portsmouth City Jail that has 288 beds.
The Portsmouth Sheriff’s Office also has 100 beds at the city maintenance compound that aren’t being used.
Since COVID-19, the beds have been used for the homeless, according to the sheriff.
Over at the Hampton Roads Regional Jail that will close in 2024, the sheriff said there are about 1,200 beds, but around 300 inmates.
“We really need to visit the fact that we are paying for space we do not need,” Moore said.
Moore thinks Portsmouth should take over what is now the Hampton Roads Regional Jail, relocate all inmates to that facility and close down the current Portsmouth City Jail.
“Oh my, my first week in office I told them whatever plan you have for moving the facility off the water, I am for it,” Moore said.
Portsmouth Vice Mayor Lisa Lucas Burke’s first political victory in 2016 was to clean up the waterfront and make it an economic driver for the city.
“That’s my mission,” Moore said, “to develop it into beautiful area, homes, entertainment option, or hotel space, or condominiums to generate more revenue than what a jail would do.”
What is the sheriff’s message to Portsmouth leadership?
“We need to have a discussion,” Moore said. “Let’s get this thing done. It’s taken too long as it is right now.”