Harrisonburg council passes resolution calling for changes at area jails

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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) — A resolution calling for changes at two area jails was passed by the Harrisonburg City Council on Tuesday evening.

By signing onto the document, the city recommends Sheriff Bryan Hutcheson look into the possibility of eliminating a $1 fee at the Rockingham-Harrisonburg Regional Jail.

The resolution also calls on leadership at both Middle River Regional Jail in Staunton and the facility in Harrisonburg to address the costs of relocating inmates during renovations.

"In addition to the other dimensions of local criminal justice reform that are really important to us, this seemed like someplace where we could make a difference," said Jennifer Davis Sensenig, a member of Faith in Action — a faith-based group which helped to draft the resolution.

"Not everybody sees everything in exactly the same way. But there are real opportunities for collaboration so we want to foster those," she said.

Sheriff Bryan Hutcheson said in March the money collected from the $1 daily fee averages about $10,000 per month and pays for daily services at the jail.

"If we eliminated this as they're requesting, then the only other option that it would basically do is raise taxes to make up that money," the sheriff said. "It is a little bit of money — but nonetheless, that money could come from taxpayers, which would include the victims and their families."

Members of Faith in Action applauded the decision by council.