Riverside Regional Jail attorney updates Chesterfield County leaders on consent agreement

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PRINCE GEORGE COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — General legal counsel for Riverside Regional Jail provided new details Wednesday night on the consent agreement between the State Board of Local and Regional Jails and Riverside, which was voted on in September after it was decided that the jail would stay open.

Attorney Jeff Gore of Hefty, Wiley & Gore spoke before the Chesterfield County Board of Supervisors at its Wednesday night meeting.

As 8News previously reported, the consent agreement for Riverside Regional Jail added three internal audit procedures. Gore said Wednesday that the goal of the audit procedures is to institute corrective action for any problems that could arise at the jail, as opposed to going straight to enforcement action.

“These are daily and weekly and monthly reviews that have to take place by the jail, by the healthcare provider, and joint discussions by both of them,” Gore said.

Gore said that, as part of the agreement, the jail has created a new State Compliance Officer position. If that officer encounters any problems, they are supposed to report immediately to the jail superintendent or assistant superintendent, who would then go the facility and find out what happened before requiring corrective action. Reports of any such instances are to be collected in a monthly report, with is then presented to the State Board of Local and Regional Jails.

However, a former inmate who was most recently at Riverside Regional Jail in February of 2020 said that the facility has a long way to go.

“There were holes in the ceiling, the roof was leaking,” she said. “They actually had a trash can sitting there, catching the water that was coming out from one of the pipes. Two of the girls were sitting there with bedding because their bathroom had been flooded, and then, they were trying to figure out where to put me all at once.”

Her testimony is consistent with what others had stated before the Board of Supervisors at a special meeting about the jail in May.

“The food was unidentifiable. One person had a roach in their food and they had to send it back,” the former inmate said. “I just cried and cried because I understood that I was being punished, but what I didn’t understand was the treatment.”

Earlier this year, the county began taking steps to depopulate the jail, after reports of understaffing and inadequate conditions for inmates. This came after the jail was placed on probation in June of 2019.

In April, a jail review committee voted to decertify Riverside Regional Jail in Prince George County. The recommendation came after an investigation found staff directly or indirectly responsible for the deaths of three inmates.

But since the consent agreement was reached in September, Gore said there have been some improvements at the jail. He noted that staffing vacancies have decreased “to the teens or 20s,” a result of pay increases, which have assisted with retention and recruiting efforts.

He also said that the contract for the jail’s healthcare vendor has changed since the time of the inmates deaths.

The former inmate who spoke with 8News Wednesday night said that she was originally in holding at Chesterfield County Jail, which she said was like night and day in comparison to Riverside Regional Jail. As such, she told 8News that she hopes the new requirements will yield true accountability.

“I would’ve given anything. I would’ve given my left arm to stay at Chesterfield,” she said. “I can’t make it up. [Riverside] is just horrendous. I shouldn’t have to stand in a shower where I’m combatting fruit flies and water bugs coming out from the bottom.”

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