City, County Considering Building a New Jail

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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) -- Prison overcrowding is taking a chunk out of the City of Harrisonburg's budget. After allocating $451,000 more dollars to keep inmates behind bars, council members say jail overcrowding continues to be an added expense in the budget.

More than 100 inmates aren't staying in the city because of the issue; instead, they're being taken outside of Rockingham County and the city.

City Council members are now looking for alternatives because they say it's a drain on the budget. Harrisonburg and Rockingham County are taking part in a community corrections plan study. Four companies submitted proposals to start the study, but one hasn't been chosen yet.

Middle River Regional Jail has about 115 inmates, according to Rockingham County Sheriff Bryan Hutcheson. It costs $38 a day for each inmate at the jail. That's in addition to about 350 people at the Rockingham County Jail.

As people look at the possibility of building a jail, some have mentioned the idea of a lower-security facility. The study will look at alternative options for sentencing, inmates and the court system.

Harrisonburg City Councilman Richard Baugh says it's a process that will take time.

"We've progressed from, this is an occasional blip on the screen where if we have to pay a little bit of money to Augusta County, it's well worth it, to no this is becoming a permanent looking part of our budget, in which case, we need to address it," said Baugh.

There is no start or end date to looking at building a new correctional facility. City council members say it's something that takes time, and at the earliest, it could take three to four years.


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