Today, Mayor W Howard Myers issued the following statement during a joint press conference with City Manager, William E. Johnson, III; City Attorney, Brian Telfair; Deputy City Manager and Finance Director, Irvin Carter and Director of Human Resources, Lorraine Adeeb:
“On December 9, 2014, Petersburg City Council voted to close the Petersburg City jail.
Today, I will address the City’s position about this decision and end the speculation that the decision of Council will change. City Council and the administration have been working with staff over the last few years to fix the issues at the jail. The conditions of the jail for staff as well as the inmates are difficult. Indeed, on December 17, 2014, the Petersburg Circuit Court determined that the jail was antiquated and in need of repair. A new jail has been requested, however, building a new jail will unnecessarily burden the City’s taxpayers.
In addition, costs to make upgrades to the existing jail conditions also will cost the citizens of Petersburg. But, with an almost 50-year-old building that has been compared to a 130-year-old building - making upgrades will not fix the issue or respond effectively or efficiently to the City’s needs. A band-aid repair will never fix what requires major surgery.
Since the inception of this issue, City Council has taken the issue seriously and has always kept the stakeholders, the sheriff’s staff, inmates and our community as a priority. With that said…. based on the decision that City Council has set forth; the City of Petersburg has closed the Petersburg City jail. There will be no reversal of this decision. All new arrestees will be taken to Riverside Regional jail effective March 1.
Current inmates at the city jail will be transferred shortly thereafter, beginning on or about March 15, 2015. The jail will be utilized as a holding facility until a decision is made for a permanent holding facility. The decision to close the city jail will respond 100% to the Sheriff’s request to house the inmates in modern accommodations with strong inmate re-entry programs.
And, this will allow the inmates, deputies and visiting families to live, work and visit in modern facilities. Next, the city wants to make sure there is continuity in the lives of these deputies in terms of employment opportunities.
There are potentially 130 vacant positions in the Central Virginia region that could potentially hire these well-trained deputies.
The City understands the effect this decision has on jobs and families and will be setting up an internal job fair where the human resource departments from area jails and facilities will be under one roof to interview and select individuals from the Sheriff’s staff. This job fair will be held in Petersburg within the next two to three weeks.
But, the closing of the jail is not only about jobs and families it is about the City’s fiscal responsibility to our taxpayers. We would spend roughly $20 million on the construction of a new jail and this cost can be avoided by sending our inmates to the regional jail that the city is currently a member of, has space for our inmates and where our female inmates are already being housed.
Furthermore, it would be extremely difficult for the City to pay for a new jail, and the additional debt service per year for the cost of a new jail. Building a new jail would move other projects back. Building a new jail will jeopardize projects in the Council Adopted CIP plan such as City Hall, School Construction, a Fieldhouse for schools and various other very important projects in the community.
Our existing debt needs to be paid which will help to restore our bond rating to the good standing the City was in. The City and its Administration are continuously strengthening our financial affairs, as this decision is economically the best move to make versus building a new jail.
We look forward to continuing to work with the Sheriff’s Department and Riverside Regional Jail as we move forward aggressively with this decision.”