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Residents express concern on proposed expansion plan of Middle River Regional Jail

Published: Jan. 13, 2021 at 11:21 PM EST
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - “I would like to speak in favor of postponing any decision regarding expansion until we have taken the obvious next steps in developing alternatives,” said Ruth Jost who lives in Rockingham County.

Members of the public came out on Wednesday to give their concerns on the proposed expansion of Middle River Regional Jail. The concern about how much it would cost complete the project came up more than once.

“We are hemorrhaging money into programs that are not working for members of out community and we are talking about expanding the jail,” said Anna Cubbage.

“We just need to take a lot of time before we spend for an expansion that I think we can find other ways,” said Cherry Tharp who lives in McGaheysville.

Officials also discussed alternatives to a physical expansion.

“Investment in Middle River Regional Jail is not as simple as a matter of increasing capacity for warehousing or people at Middle River Regional Jail.

Sottaceti gave a presentation pushing to focus on existing programs such as crisis intervention training, drug court and pre-trial services that aim for the prevention of incarceration instead of reaction.

“It comes to the factor of not having people in jail to begin with. The jail is a recipient of who is sent to them.” Sottaceti said. ”It is not the jail making that decision so that would be the commonwealth attorney’s office, the magistrates offices and so forth to divert ahead of incarceration.”

The proposed expansion plan must gain approval from various local and state leaders before moving forward. These conversations come as the facility is attempting to manage an COVID-19 outbreak that has continued for several months.

On Monday, a press release from jail officials said an additional 13 inmates had tested positive for the virus bringing the total of positive inmates since November 25 to 556.

“Restrictions implemented November 17, 2020 remain in effect for the foreseeable future. Staff continue to coordinate with Dr. Kornegay, Health Director, Central Shenandoah Health District at Virginia Department of Health. Current plan is to retest staff and inmates again this week.” the release read.

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