PRINCE GEORGE COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — 8News got a look inside Riverside Regional Jail in Prince George County. The tour comes a week after the jail avoided closure amid allegations of poor conditions and inmate safety concerns.
Riverside Regional Jail Superintendent, Colonel Larry Leabough and his team walked an 8News crew throughout the facility.
“This is the hub over Riverside Regional Jail and as you can see this is not a dirty, torn up, broken jail,” Leabough said.
In April, a jail review committee recommended to decertify or close the jail following the deaths of three inmates in 2019 and 2020. Former inmates and Chesterfield County leaders have reported unsanitary conditions at the jail. There’s been backed up toilets, rats and ceilings caving in. 8News saw none of that Thursday.
The 8News crew walked into cells, stepped into the kitchen, toured the pods for both men and women’s housing and talked with offenders. Whatever we asked to see, they let us see it even when an offender told us several cells were bug infested and covered in black mold.
“Come on, she said it’s infested and mold. Pick one. She said 7 through 12, you pick one,” said Leabough pointing to the cells in question.
They didn’t hold back or prevent us from taking a look. We inspected the cells and found nothing
The jail is by no means a Holiday Inn. However, from what our 8News crew saw on this particular day was places for recreation, pods for substance abuse and mental health counseling as well as clean cells and halls.
We found no toilet back-ups, caving ceilings or water leaks. We were told the roof was just fixed. Leabough said, “We just finished one of the last parts of that roofing project.”
That’s not how a former inmate, who we are not identifying for fear of retaliation, remembers it. “Riverside is inhumane,” said the former inmate.
They contacted us after learning the jail had reached an agreement with the jail state board to stay open. The inmate who did time at the facility in 2019 and 2020 said, “When I saw your story, it brought it all back. Homeless people do better than those in Riverside.”
The former inmate and others remember flooded cells, poor medical care and food that could make you sick.
They said, “There is a difference between eating something that’s identifiable, than stuff that is rotten stuff that has roaches and mice trails on your plate.”
Superintendent Leabough believes some offenders are going to complain because it’s not what they’re used to.
He said, “Some people, they just don’t like being in jail.”
During our tour, the lunch was identifiable. The menu consisted of turkey and rice along with carrots, peas and cornbread. Several inmates told us they felt they were getting the help they needed inside.
“I don’t want to say this is a great place because it is jail. But they do a lot, this is the first place I have been that rehabilitation and education is taking place,” said Randy Scott.
In a block dedicated to those in needs of help with addiction we spoke with inmate Lakisha Davis. She said, “Our TC program is built to give us resources to use when we go out in public, back into society.”
Of course, the tour was planned. The superintendent did offer 8News a tour of the jail on the spot last week when crews first met him. Due to timing restraints, 8News had to pass.
Still, we mentioned to the Superintendent today that some will suggest the facility put its best foot forward and cleaned up for the scheduled visit.
Leabough said, “We passed every state audit, passed federal bureau of prisons audit, U.S. marshals audit, the fire marshals. Every audit we have had, we passed with flying colors. This is not today this is how we run every day.”
Still, the reports of poor conditions haven’t come from just offenders. In May, the Chesterfield County Board of Supervisors held special meeting about the jail. Several county officials reported unsanitary conditions.
8News pressed the Superintendent on those allegations. He told us, “None of those officials have ever been here.”
We also asked Leabough about those inmate deaths and accusation of a lack of medical care. Former inmates have alleged guards and other staff are slow to respond to medical emergencies. Superintendent Leabough denies that.
He said, “There’s is a nurse assigned to every one of these buildings, that’s not true. If you go back and look at the coroner’s report, two of those deaths were natural causes, one death was suicide.”
Under the agreement with the jail and the state jail board, a standards compliance officer will be put in place to ensure standards like 24 hour medical and mental health care is available. The agreement also calls for regular internal audits and a new security system.