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Commonwealth's Counties

Resources for Jails a Continued Area of Legislative Interest

HB 912 (Shin), which initially proposed to limit or eliminate certain fees charged within jails, cap prices for items sold in jail commissaries, and require jails to provide telephone calls to a limited number of recipients at no cost, was substantially revised this session and has now passed both chambers.  Similar bills were considered in 2022 and in 2023.  In 2022, due to the complexity of the issues involved and the potential financial impact on jail operations, the legislation was converted to a study directive, with a workgroup charged with making recommendations regarding the reduction or elimination of certain fees.  The 2022 workgroup failed to reach consensus or to develop detailed data on fee revenue or expenditures.  The 2022 legislation was reintroduced in 2023, where it was tabled in both chambers amid committee discussions on the need to provide more state support to jails so that programming can be funded through public dollars rather than fee revenue (the revised state budget approved in September 2023 included an increase in the local-responsible per diem rate from $4 to $5).

As passed by the General Assembly, HB 912 revises the statutes that currently govern the use of net profits from stores within local and regional jails.  Current law requires the net profits from the operation of stores within regional jails to be used within each facility for “educational, recreational, or other beneficial purposes as may be prescribed by the superintendent.”  Language governing the use of net profits from stores in local jails contains similar provisions, but also allows profits to be used for the general operation of the sheriff’s office.  HB 912 adds inmate medical care, to include behavioral health, substance abuse, reentry, and rehabilitative services, as an allowable use of net profits, and eliminates the language allowing the use of profits for “other beneficial purposes as may be prescribed by the superintendent” and for the general operation of the sheriff’s office.  The bill also includes similar language prescribing the use of net profits from the operation of telephonic communication or electronic visitation or messaging systems.  VACo had expressed concerns about the original version of HB 912, but now has no position on the amended version.

SB 41 (Peake), a helpful bill that would require the Department of Corrections to compensate local jails for the actual cost of housing state-responsible inmates (individuals convicted of felonies with sentences of one year or more), as calculated in the Compensation Board’s annual Jail Cost Report, was passed by indefinitely in Senate Finance and Appropriations.  VACo has historically supported this legislation and appreciates the continued consideration of additional resources for jails; VACo staff spoke in support of the measure when it was heard in the Senate Rehabilitation and Social Services Committee earlier in the session.

VACo worked with advocacy partners to submit budget amendments again this session to increase local-responsible per diem rates.  While another per diem increase is unlikely this session, additional resources for substance use disorder treatment in jails are under consideration.  The introduced budget included $500,000 in FY 2025 from the state’s opioid settlement funds to provide jail-based substance use disorder treatment, and both the House and Senate budgets propose to increase this amount (to $2 million in the House and to $1.5 million in the Senate) and to transfer the funding from the Compensation Board to the Department of Criminal Justice Services for deposit into the Virginia Opioid Use Reduction and Jail-Based Substance Use Disorder Treatment and Transition Fund.  This Fund was established in legislation passed in 2023, and will be used to make grants to local and regional jails for the planning or operation of substance use disorder treatment services and transition services; VACo supported the 2023 legislation and supports these proposed budget actions to provide resources to the Fund.

VACo Contact:  Katie Boyle

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