RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Another inmate has died inside the Richmond City Justice Center, sparking outrage and calls for change among some city leaders.
This latest death marks the fourth inmate death inside the jail since March 2022, and the third in three months.
“One death is an alarming number for me,” Sheriff Antionette Irving said during a press conference Wednesday afternoon. “We’re doing our best to make sure our inmates are safe and that our staff is safe and that we’re taking all the precautions.”
Details surrounding the death were not released by officials. However, they said the Richmond Emergency Communications department was contacted immediately. The Richmond Fire Department and Henrico Fire Department and EMS also responded to the incident.
“There is no leadership in that jail,” Councilwoman Reva Trammell, who has repeatedly voiced concerns about conditions within the jail, said. “The inmates are running that jail. How are the drugs getting in there?”
While the cause of death was not released, inside sources shared with 8News the inmate was a 37-year-old man who was given Narcan around 1 a.m. Wednesday morning.
According to Sheriff Antionette Irving, Narcan can be administered even without the presence of drugs, but she did admit they are an issue in the jail.
“Drugs are an issue in all institutions, not just this institution,” she said. “I’ve been in this business 30 years and it has been an issue and probably will continue to be.”
She said the drugs can come through “the front door or the back door,” but claims deputies are conducting two pod checks an hour and continuing to monitor inmate mail.
When asked if the critical deputy shortage at the jail makes security checks difficult, the Sheriff said “it’s difficult, but our staff is working really hard to ensure that we’re doing the things that need to be done. They’re coming in and working overtime.”
The jail is currently down 170 deputies, which is the same number 8News reported in 2022.
In December, councilwoman Trammell wrote a letter to the state calling for an investigation. The letter, addressed to Robert Mosier with the Public Safety and Homeland Security office, cited the three inmate deaths in 2022 and a growing number of deputy assaults.
8News reached out to the Virginia Board of Local and Regional Jails about a possible investigation, but have not heard back. Irving was unable to answer if an investigation is ongoing.
After the latest death investigation, Trammell said she’s received calls from concerned inmate families.
“They’re crying on the phone. I had a call from a mother this morning like please don’t let my son die in that jail,” Trammell said, saying she has zero confidence in the Sheriff’s ability to lead.
Meanwhile, Irving maintains confidence in her ability to lead.
“Absolutely I have confidence in myself as well as confidence in my staff,” Irving said. “Councilwoman Trammell can feel how she feels.”