Will the General Assembly help HRRJ’s staffing problems?

Hampton Roads Regional Jail

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — Staffing issues at a local lockup are leading to worries about inmate and officer safety.

We’ve told you about several deaths at the Hampton Roads Regional Jail, including one that prompted a federal investigation.

Officials from the jail said the facility is overcrowded and there’s not nearly enough people to keep an eye on everyone.

Inside the Hampton Roads Regional Jail, we got an inside look at how jail officers look over the more than 1,000 inmates.

“Ideally a pod of this nature, I’d like to see three officers,” said Operations Lt. Winston Bhagirath, looking over the maximum security pod. “But I’m working with one.”

Behind the security doors, Lieutenant Bhagirath said his officers are severely understaffed.

“Right now we currently have one officer in these max pods, so you can imagine you’re in a pod of 120 people, how that task can be very daunting,” he explained.

The pod he showed us houses some violent inmates, and others with chronic illnesses and mental health needs.

Health services administrator April Green said it’s not just officers who are understaffed; it’s also the medical team.

“There is only one charge RN, so which emergency should she triage first?” Green said of the tough decisions.

Superintendent Ronaldo Myers said that staffing has played a large role in some of the issues.

“I don’t wanna say that because you have staffing you won’t have suicide, no, that is not the case,” he said. “What staffing does is it helps reduce the chances of opportunity.”

Could help be on the way?

In this year’s Virginia budget, local lawmakers have put in a request to add more than $2 million to the jail’s budget.

“If we can get 81 officers out of that position I’ll be ecstatically happy,” he said.

Myers will tell you it’s not a cure all to what ails the jail, but it’s a start.

“Whatever they can give us to help augment short staff and reduce our overtime. I’ll be very happy,” Myers said.

Overcrowded and understaffed, but help from the state could be on the way.