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Helpful bills would assist with costs of housing state-responsible inmates in local and regional jails; please contact legislators to support

HB 989 (Runion) and SB 165 (Peake) would improve state support for state-responsible inmates being housed in local and regional jails.  Currently, in addition to state support for jail staffing provided through the Compensation Board, the state provides a per-diem payment to assist with the costs of housing incarcerated individuals.  These rates – $4 for local-responsible inmates and $12 for state-responsible inmates – have not been increased since FY 2011.

A state-responsible inmate is an individual who has been convicted of one or more felony offenses and sentenced to one year or more.  A local-responsible inmate is an individual arrested on a state warrant and incarcerated in a local correctional facility prior to trial, convicted of a misdemeanor offense and sentenced to a term in a local correctional facility, or convicted of a felony offense and given an effective sentence of one year or less.

Language in Virginia Code § 53.1-20 requires state-responsible offenders to be placed in the custody of the Department of Corrections and received into the state corrections system within 60 days of the date on which the final sentencing order is sent to the Director of the Department of Corrections.  However, language in the Appropriation Act overrides this Code section and provides that the Director of the Department of Corrections “shall receive offenders into the state correctional system from local and regional jails at such time as he determines that sufficient, secure and appropriate housing is available, placing a priority on receiving inmates diagnosed and being treated for HIV, mental illnesses requiring medication, or Hepatitis C.”  While some jails house relatively few state-responsible offenders, some localities have reported problems with overcrowding that have been exacerbated by state-responsible inmates being housed in local or regional jails.

HB 989 would provide for a tiered reimbursement rate to localities that increases payments for state-responsible inmates who remain in local and regional jails for longer periods of time by providing for a payment of $12 per day for the first 60 days of incarceration following the transmission of the final sentencing order by the court to the Director of the Department of Corrections, $40 per day for more than 60 but not more than 90 days of incarceration following the transmission of the order, and the actual cost of incarceration as calculated by the Compensation Board in its annual jail cost report for each day beyond the 90-day period.

SB 165 (Peake) would provide for local jails to be compensated for the actual costs of incarceration as calculated by the Compensation Board in its annual jail cost report beginning on the sixty-first day after transmission of the sentencing order.

SB 165 has been referred to the Senate Rehabilitation and Social Services Committee.  HB 989 has not yet been referred to a committee.  VACo supports these bills and encourages members to register their support with their legislators.  VACo is also working with the Virginia Municipal League, the Virginia Association of Regional Jails, and the Virginia Sheriffs’ Association on budget amendments to restore per diem payments for local-responsible inmates to their pre-FY 2011 levels of $8/day.

Key Points

  • Per diem rates have not been adjusted since FY 2011, while the costs of caring for incarcerated individuals have increased. According to the most recent state data, the average daily cost to house a jail inmate is now $100.32 (of which localities contribute $55.30).
  • Virginia localities make a substantial contribution to the housing and care of inmates in local and regional jails. According to the Compensation Board, in FY 2020, localities contributed $605.1 million to local and regional jails and jail farms (including debt service obligations), and an additional $15.6 million to house inmates at other jurisdictions.  The Compensation Board provided funding of $362.1 million, with other state agencies providing an additional $2.6 million, primarily in grant funding.
  • The Department of Corrections is better equipped than local and regional jails to provide intensive re-entry programming, offering more than 125 academic, job training, and therapeutic programs to offenders who are in prison and individuals under community supervision. The Department of Corrections reports that state-responsible inmates who spend their entire sentences in local or regional jails recidivate at a higher rate than offenders who spend at least part of their incarceration in a Department of Corrections facility (26.9 percent and 21 percent, respectively).

VACo Contact:  Katie Boyle

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