State lawmaker responds to calls for intervention at Richmond Jail

State lawmaker responds to calls for intervention at Richmond Jail

RICHMOND, Va. – A state lawmaker joins calls from the Commonwealth to help the Richmond City Penitentiary address challenges related to staff and inmate safety.

On Wednesday, an inmate at the Richmond Justice Center, who identified himself as Rashid Holman, called CBS 6 from prison to express his fears about the violence he allegedly witnessed.

“It’s bad. It’s really bad,” Holman said. “It’s not safe. People are dying.”

Holman said he was violently assaulted by another inmate earlier in the year.

“I was stabbed in the throat and face. I got stabbed at least three times and the guy cut my throat,” Holman said.

A prison report in February showed an officer bleeding from Holman’s face and another inmate admitted to assaulting him.

Holman said the stabbing sent him to the hospital for weeks before he was returned to prison and treated in the prison medical unit.

He said he remained concerned for the safety of himself and others as MPs were reportedly not being supervised. Sometimes he said some pods didn’t have a deputy physically monitoring them.

“[Violence is] That happens quite often,” Holman said. “Somebody always gets in a fight or gets stabbed.”

In a November interview, Sheriff Irving told CBS 6 that she lost about 160 deputies out of 385 positions, meaning about 41% of deputy positions are vacant. The prison currently has an inmate population of approximately 600.

By comparison, the Norfolk City jail is down 35 from 321 sworn positions, according to a public information official. That is a vacancy rate of 10%. Norfolk Prison currently houses 587 inmates.

Virginia’s Board of Local and Regional Jails was asked by Richmond City Councilwoman Reva Trammell to investigate the jail for compliance with state regulations. The request came after three inmate deaths that year, including a drug overdose and several reported attacks on MPs.

CBS 6 asked the board how it would respond to the request and has yet to receive a response. Under standard protocol, the board reviews the circumstances surrounding the deaths of the prison’s inmates.

Irving previously told CBS 6 that she doesn’t believe a state investigation is necessary and would rather see local officials focus more on fighting crime on the street lest they end up in jail in the first place.

At least one state legislator, Senator Joe Morrissey, agreed that the Commonwealth should help the Richmond Sheriff’s Office.

“The state has to intervene. This isn’t just worrying or worrying. It’s almost terrifying,” Morrissey said. “It’s not a bad thing. It shows no weakness, so I fully support the state in using its resources to protect the sheriff, her deputies, staff and inmates.”

Morrissey compared the idea to the recently launched “Partnership for Petersburg,” in which Gov. Youngkin directed state resources to help the city of Petersburg address challenges in law enforcement, education, health and more.

He added he believes the sheriff’s office should provide information on deaths, assaults and overdoses.

Irving’s office has not yet provided data on in-prison assaults, inmate charges and overtime pay required by the Freedom of Information Act. The sheriff’s office said it would charge CBS 6 more than $1,000 to provide answers.

“There should be absolute 100 percent transparency,” Morrissey said. “This facility is a municipal facility. You could call it the People’s Prison. The people who work there, including the constitutional officer, the sheriff, have a fiduciary duty to give you anything you ask for.”

Morrissey said an overall idea to make all Virginia prisons safer is for lawmakers to support local agencies to help inmates who come to prison with drug addictions. He said many local jails lack the support to meet the growing need.

“The underlying element is that they are addicted to opioids and that causes them to have withdrawal symptoms and in some cases die. That’s where we need to immediately allocate resources to help people go through a detoxification process,” Morrissey said. “It’s something that needs to be addressed drastically now.”

A failure to provide secure prisons is unacceptable, he said.

“Just because someone has committed a crime doesn’t mean they lose all human dignity and that they shouldn’t be treated with respect in prison,” he said.

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