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Sheriff stops sending inmates to HRRJ, still confident jail will comply with federal report

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PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — One of the five area sheriffs who house inmates at the Hampton Roads Regional Jail stopped sending additional prisoners there four weeks ago, following a highly critical report from the U.S. Department of Justice. But Portsmouth Sheriff Michael Moore remains confident that HRRJ will come into compliance.

The DOJ concluded in December that conditions at the regional jail were unconstitutional, in violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments as well as the Americans with Disabilities Act.

DOJ: Hampton Roads Regional Jail in violation of inmates’ constitutional rights, federal law

The report criticized the regional jail’s medical care, mental health care, and its restrictive housing policy when it comes to inmates with mental illness. It was prompted by the 2015 death of inmate Jamycheal Mitchell.

Moore says his decision to keep his inmates in the city jail is to take some of the burden off the regional jail, and not a lack of faith in Regional Jail Superintendent David Hackworth, who took over at HRRJ last June.    

“He really is a great leader and he’s going to do great things for that regional jail,” Moore said in a Monday interview. He and the four other sheriffs who house prisoners at HRRJ signed a joint letter of support for Hackworth shortly after the DOJ released its report.

Moore has the luxury of not needing to send inmates to HRRJ. He says his city jail is running about 70 to 80 inmates under capacity, so it is not overcrowded.

The DOJ gave the regional jail a deadline of February 6 to come up with an action plan that addresses more than 40 shortcomings it cited in the report.

Portsmouth has an allotment of 250 beds at the regional jail, and pays for them whether they are used or not. Portsmouth currently has about 155 inmates at HRRJ.

Moore says by not sending any additional prisoners for the time being, he can help HRRJ address its problems.

“We’re thinking that the action that we’re taking hopefully will benefit them in meeting their goal a lot sooner than later.”

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