‘This is a challenge’: Hackworth embraces task of reforming Hampton Roads Regional Jail

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The troubled Hampton Roads Regional Jail is under permanent new leadership.

Lt. Colonel David Hackworth, who served as interim superintendent, was sworn in last week. 

“This is a challenge — I like a tough challenge, so it attracted me here.” Hackworth told WAVY.com.

With 31 years under his belt at the Chesapeake Sheriff’s Office, Hackworth stepped into the jail knowing full well its reputation and challenges.

“A lot of people are looking from the outside, but when you get in here you see it’s a little different from what’s portrayed.” he said.

The jail captured headlines in August 2015 when 24-year-old Jamycheal Mitchell, a mentally ill man, died after wasting away in a cell.  

Almost exactly a year later, 60-year-old Henry Clay Stewart died, two days after asking for
medical help.

The U.S. Justice Department is investigating the facility. Hackworth told 10 On Your Side, “I have heard nothing with the federal investigation, what I’ve told the individuals here is that we’re going to do our job
we’re going to do it the way that it should be done.”

Currently, more then half, 577 of the 1107 inmates at the facility, have a mental health diagnosis.
Hackworth says staff is being trained on dealing with them. 

The jail also received a state grant to help those inmates develop plans for when they are discharged.

Last week, Hackworth brought the jail in line with a federal rule on housing adults and inmates under 18.

“We were able to identify a small housing unit that was separate to make sure we put glazing up on the window to prevented sight to other male housing areas,” he explained.

He also tackled a hiring crisis.

The day he walked in the door there were 41 vacancies to fill, today it’s down to 10. 

“There’s a lot of good people working here and they’re working hard,” he said.

Hackworth stresses a big three with his employees: building relationships, communication and follow up.

He says he will now continue with a complete review of operations and contracts at the jail to see what can be improved.

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