Critical local jail funding bill fails

February 25, 2020

A bill seeking to compensate local governments for the costs associated with local jails failed to advance out of the House Public Safety Committee on Friday morning, being tabled due to its fiscal impact on the state.

SB 189 (Peake) provided for local jails to be compensated for the actual cost of incarcerating convicted felons at the rate calculated in the Compensation Board’s annual jail cost report. Current law provides for jails to be compensated for the cost of incarceration of convicted felons as provided for in the general appropriation act.

Currently, localities pay approximately 57.7 percent of jail costs, while the state only pays approximately 36.2 percent.  With state funding already having been slashed and costs continuing to rise, this funding strain on localities continues to grow more and more dire.  This cost to localities will only get worse in the future, as the Board of Corrections is currently working on new behavioral health and medical care standards for local and regional jails, and those standards will require more resources to implement.  The initial cost estimate for the behavioral health care standards alone is approximately $40 million.

Senator Mark Peake’s bill sought to more fully compensate localities for these costs, stating that the new compensation is to be based on “actual cost of incarceration as calculated in the jail cost report prepared annually by the Compensation Board.”  The Virginia Department of Planning and Budget (DPB) analyzed this and found that this could be done in various ways and would cost the state anywhere from $2.5 million to $76.6 million.

SB 189 passed the Senate without much issue, but by the time it was heard in the House the amended budget had been introduced and did not include any funding for this issue.  As such, the House Public Safety Committee elected to table the bill, killing it for the year.

VACo spoke in support of SB 189 before both the Senate and House.  We are grateful that Senator Peake introduced this bill and are highly appreciative of his hard work on this important matter.

VACo Contact: Chris McDonald, Esq.

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