Budget Cuts Impact Virginia Correctional Facilities

POWHATAN, Va. — Several Virginia correctional facilities will soon be shuttered in an attempt by the state to address a roughly $2.4 billion revenue shortfall. Governor Terry McAuliffe announced the closures — and subsequent layoffs — in a press conference in Richmond on Oct. 15. All facilities named in the budget cuts will be closed before the end of the year.

“Making these budget reductions has been the most difficult experience of my term so far,” Governor McAuliffe said at the press conference. “In a government as lean and well-run as ours, there are few spending cuts you can make without impacting the lives of Virginians. The goal was to keep lay-offs to a minimum and protect our core services. The budget I present in December will be a sound and balanced approach to navigating the challenges we face and building a foundation for a stronger economic future.”

The Powhatan Main Correctional Center, the second oldest correctional facility in the state, will close the majority of its units, though the medical and receiving units will remain operational. Seventy-five of the prison’s 329 employees will be shifted to the Deep Meadow Correctional Center, also part of the Powhatan complex, while all remaining employees will be let go. The facility’s more than 800 inmates will be reallocated to other facilities.

Speaking with the Times Dispatch, Sen. John Watkins (R-Powhatan) noted that the aging facility had been a steady financial drain. “The maintenance costs associated with that facility are so high that it needs to be replaced,” Watkins said. “I would rather they would move forward with the replacement, but, quite frankly, they don’t need the beds right now.”

Additionally, the budget cuts will close the Cold Springs Work Center in Augusta and the White Post Diversion Center in White Post, resulting in 45 and 34 layoffs, respectively. It will also delay the reopening of the Culpepper Juvenile Correctional Center as a women’s facility, causing further layoffs and position eliminations.

Of the 565 total jobs that will be cut by the new budget, 506 will be from the Department of Corrections alone, representing 90 percent of trimmed positions. These moves will save approximately $4 million in the current fiscal year, and spare cuts in state aid to K-12 education.

In addition to the Department of Corrections, the state’s behavioral health and developmental services, forensic science, taxation, forestry, general services and health departments will all experience cuts. Meanwhile the state police will sell one airplane and only 27 of the 68 vacant state trooper positions will be filled.