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The Baltimore Sun

Jail cost increases for localities not as steep as projected

NEWPORT NEWS – Localities housing inmates at the Hampton Roads Regional Jail will see their rates increase this year, but not by as much as originally projected, thanks to the city of Chesapeake's plans to join the group.

Newport News, Hampton, Portsmouth and Norfolk opened the Portsmouth facility in 1998 to ease overcrowding at municipal jails. They each pay $53 per day for each bed they have reserved for inmates at the regional jail.

But over the past year and a half, 400 U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement inmates were rapidly pulled from the jail, resulting in a loss of $8 million in revenue.

To make up the difference and keep the jail operating, localities had projected they would need to increase their per diem costs $25, bringing the cost to $78. For Newport News, that would have been an additional $1.8 million annually. But with Chesapeake joining, the localities will pay $63 — an extra $10.

The city of Chesapeake is looking for somewhere to house inmates after learning it could not use a jail it built for $8 million for its intended purpose because city leaders did not obtain the proper state permits, the Virginian-Pilot has reported.

Localities earlier this year also approved a policy change that lets the jail keep fewer dollars in a reserve fund — from 25 percent of its annual budget to 16.6 percent — which also contributes to the lower per diem cost increase for localities, Newport News City Manager Jim Bourey said.

Each locality has a set number of beds at the facility. Newport News has 200 beds, and all are usually full, Bourey.

Newport News budgeted about $4.6 million for the regional jail payment for this year, with the assumption Chesapeake would join, Bourey said. The city has been paying the $63 per diem since July 1, when the new fiscal year began.

The city's jail houses about 500 inmates and stays fairly full, Bourey said.

The Hampton Roads Regional Jail Authority, comprised of city leaders from each locality, voted to allow Chesapeake to join the authority in June. All localities must now individually vote to approve the addition no later than Oct. 1, which Newport News did Tuesday in a unanimous council vote. Hampton is scheduled to consider the measure at its council meeting Wednesday.

If all localities approve, Chesapeake will pay $3 million over the next three years and receive up to 250 beds at the facility.

Clift can be reached by phone at 757-247-7870.

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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