RICHMOND, Va. — Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell recently released his proposed budget amendments for the upcoming fiscal year, which begins in July. Two of the changes focus on the corrections market, as McDonnell called for two juvenile justice buildings to be closed and one adult correctional facility to be opened. The state prepares budgets in two-year installments so it is relatively routine for adjustments to be made at the halfway point.
McDonnell called for $14.3 million in funding to be allocated to the River North Correctional Center in Grayson County, which was completed over two years ago but has remained unopened due to a decline in the state’s prison population and tight budgets. In the meantime, the state has been paying more than $700,000 per year to maintain the facility. The $105 million facility was designed by the Richmond-based firm Moseley Architects, while Balfour Beatty Construction, out of Dallas, served as the general contractor. The facility has 1,024 beds and will employ 325 people.
Grayson county administrator Jonathan Sweet was excited about the governor’s decision, explaining, “it will allow us to realize the 300 to 350 latent job opportunities that are there. A lot of our citizens have been treading water for some time waiting.”
“This is probably the largest leap forward coming from the state that gets us closer to opening. The funding needs to be approved by the legislature to be there in July, the start of the new fiscal year, but we are ever more confident that the funding will remain in place because we think our state representative for this district will fight to keep those dollars in there.”
The administrator added that he expected the local commercial and real estate markets to improve significantly if and when the legislature approves the funding. He said job openings could begin to be filled as early as July if the funding is approved for the upcoming fiscal year.
In a speech explaining his proposed amendments to the state’s $86.5 billion budget, McDonell said opening the facility would allow for inmates who were deferred to county jails because of overcrowding would return to state facilities.
“We will easily fill these new 1,000 beds, with half of the inmates coming from our state-responsible population in local jails, and half from DOC [Department of Corrections] prisons,” McDonnell said.”
The governor also called upon the legislature to join him in closing the Hanover Juvenile Correctional Center, in Hanover County and repurposing the Reception and Diagnostic Center in Chesterfield County. The Chesterfield building would be repurposed as an evaluation center, while the detention facility would be repurposed for an as-yet unnamed use at a later date. McDonnell said these measures would save the state over $7 million per year.
These closures would involve moving 82 juveniles from the correctional center and 38 from the Chesterfield location, all of which would end up in the Beaumont Juvenile Correctional Center in Powhatan County.
The governor said there was plenty of room for the humane housing of juveniles without these facilities, due to reductions in the amount of juveniles detained in the state over the last few years.