VERONA — The future of the Middle River Regional Jail expansion will stay on the horizon as the vote to move forward with the plan was pushed back for a second time this week at the latest jail authority board meeting held Tuesday.
On Monday, the evening before the meeting, community members gathered in front of the jail for a rally in opposition to the possible expansion of the facility. Many of the jail staff getting off their work shift witnessed the rally as they left.
Over half a dozen of the same voices at the rally attended Tuesday’s board meeting to share their opposition with the board members personally. There was not a single attendee that called in to support the jail expansion.
Middle River Regional Jail Authority Board Chair Stephen King added that majority of the comments that the board has received are against the expansion.
“Public input always has impact on governing bodies to some degree or another,” King said.
Before the expansion plan can move forward, the board must vote on a concrete plan that includes which amenities would be renovated, how many beds would be added and what services could be introduced to the facility that it did not already have.
One of the reasons the board decided to delay the vote was because there was an added level of complexity when dealing with five different jurisdictions that need to come to an agreement on what the jail expansion would look like, according to King.
“We have respected councils and boards of supervisors that are trying to gather more information and there are still a couple city council members who would like to look at the facility in person,” King said. “So it will stay on the agenda for the next meeting and action may not be taken at that point either, I can’t tell you for sure.”
In previous presentations to city councils and boards of supervisors, there has been discussion of a plan that included renovations to medical, mental health and laundry facilities, warehouse/maintenance, and 400 beds, with additional space to add more in the future.
The jail has a capacity of 395 inmates but held an average of 834 inmates during 2020, according to Middle River Regional Jail Superintendent Jeffery Newton in a presentation to the Waynesboro City Council earlier this year.
The jail has paid to rent beds in other facilities to house their own inmates because there is so little room in the jail. The overcrowding is one of the reasons new beds could be part of the expansion plan.
The next scheduled meeting for the authority board is June 1 at 2 p.m.
— Alison Cutler (she/her) is the Government Watchdog Reporter at The News Leader. She grew up in Tucson, Arizona and graduated from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. Contact Alison at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter at @alisonjc2.
— Ayano Nagaishi (she/her) is the Social Justice Watchdog Reporter at The News Leader. She has an international background, having lived in London, Belgium, Germany, Japan and more. Her passion for journalism stems from these experiences. Contact Ayano at email@example.com and follow her on Twitter at @yanonaga98.