State Review Recommends Changes to Improve Jail Oversight

Sep 17, 2019

Virginia does a thorough job of inspecting local and regional jails and investigating deaths inside those facilities.

But a state review finds better coordination could improve oversight of the jail system.

Every year, 50 to 60 people die while in custody of a local or regional jail.  Since 2018, each of those deaths must be reviewed by the state Board of Corrections. 

Credit Dave Nakayama / Creative Commons

The General Assembly’s legislative watchdog, called JLARC for short, found the board takes its job seriously, but is understaffed and overwhelmed with a backlog of cases.

Its oversight is also limited, because even though jail standards are set by the Board, inspections are handled by a different agency: The Virginia Department of Corrections, which also runs state prisons.  JLARC found the organizations rarely share information about inspections and death reviews. 

The watchdog recommends transferring inspection duties to the Board of Corrections and other changes to create a more comprehensive oversight process.

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