FARMVILLE, Va. (WRIC) — Piedmont Regional Jail, which had two back-to-back escapes in April, won’t release records showing the extent of their staffing issues, citing security concerns.
In the early morning hours of April 30, Alder Marin Sotelo broke the lock on an exterior door to the Piedmont Regional Jail, scaled a perimeter fence and drove off in a car allegedly left for him by his sister in the jail’s parking lot.
21 hours later, Bruce Callahan, another inmate, left through the same door, walking off of the jail grounds and into the night.
It was only four hours after Callahan’s escape that jail authorities notified local law enforcement of the two men’s escapes, setting off an international manhunt.
Sotelo was eventually captured by federal police in Mexico while Callahan turned himself in on the campus of Longwood University, less than three miles from the jail.
In the wake of the escapes, the U.S. Marshals Service made the decision to remove all of their federal inmates from the jail, cutting the facility off from a large source of revenue.
In the wake of the escapes, 8News requested documents from the jail showing their staffing levels at the time of the escapes, including the total number of security personnel employed there and the total number of unfilled positions.
In a letter from the jail’s law firm, they denied the records request, claiming the records were exempt because releasing them would “jeopardize the safety or security” of the jail.
But using public records, including minutes of the jail’s board, 8News was able to determine that there have been at least 20 vacant security officer positions since June 2022, and that that figure represents a significant portion of the facility’s overall staffing.
Using a fiscal statement given in June 2022 and open position figures given in the same month, 8News was able to determine that “full staffing” at the facility was approximately 131 full-time employees.
In March 2023, the most recent period during which information on open positions was available, there were 27 open positions for security personnel. Though conditions at the facility may have changed since last June, that suggests a staffing shortfall of over 20%.