Putting an end to jail overcrowding in Chesapeake

Chesapeake City Jail (WAVY/Joel Hilton)

CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY) — The Chesapeake sheriff is moving inmates out of the city jail, but not because they’re being released. He says there’s simply not enough room.

The capacity for the Chesapeake City Jail is 555 inmates, but Sheriff Jim O’Sullivan says the facility has been holding many more than that.

“The current head count that we have today was 1,036, and it’ll be at 1,100 in the coming months,” he said. “It kind of fluctuates. We’ve been as high as 1200.”

The severe overcrowding has created a real challenge, particularly because many of the inmates have drug, alcohol or mental health issues.

“Our local jails have become the mental health institution, so we take care of everything that no one else can provide for, which increases the level of our numbers” he said.

But the city is working on the crisis and started moving inmates elsewhere, just this month. Chesapeake sent the first group of 50 inmates to the Hampton Roads Regional Jail in Portsmouth, which has some more space.

“600 single cells, they’re made for the kind of population for mental health, medical and different disciplinary segregation for ones who’ve been in fights or in trouble,” O’Sullivan said.

The Chesapeake jail has only 60 single cells.

“By joining the regional jail, it allows us to take 250 of our prisoners and move them over there to give us a chance to breathe and assess what we have right there, and come up with a plan for the future,” O’Sullivan said.

The 250 inmates will not go to the regional jail all at once, but over the course of several months.

O’Sullivan said Chesapeake negotiated a $3 million, three-year contract with the Hampton Roads Regional Jail. The city joins Norfolk, Newport News, Hampton, and Portsmouth in using the regional facility. Virginia Beach, however, is not involved.

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