Fast food and video visits: New ways to fund the Virginia Beach jail

Posted at 7:10 PM, Apr 05, 2013
and last updated 2013-04-06 07:48:15-04

Virginia Beach,  Va. - Virginia Beach Sheriff Ken Stolle is getting creative when it comes to generating revenue for jail operations.

Two bills passed in the General Assembly this year and signed by Governor Bob McDonnell will allow Stolle to help offset some of the cuts to his budget made by the state in recent years.

One is through fast-food like items sold online through "Fresh Favorites," a part of the Care Mart.

It's a program Stolle started in 2011 which offers meals and snacks like barbecue sandwiches, hamburgers and chicken wings available for purchase for inmates.

Stolle says 96% of the purchases are made by family members and friends on the outside, with only 4% made by inmates inside the jail.

Under the new law, Stolle can now use profits made from the purchases by family and friends on the outside to support jail operations.

"If the money came from the inmates, it had to be used for recreational or for the benefit of the inmates in the facility," Stolle explained. "It was never our belief or intention that if money came from the outside that it had to be used for those same purposes."

Stolle says the program is a way to make-up for the $3 per day jail fees that many inmates already don't pay and to offset cuts in state funding.

"I was trying to make up the revenue that we lost from the state and we made up 1.5 million dollars of that," Stolle explained. "What we found is a way that we can provide them with a service while here, they pay for that service and it helps to offset the cost of their keep without costing the taxpayers dollars."

Stolle points to specialized programs within the jail, including special accommodations for prisoners with mental issues, that otherwise wouldn't be possible with limited funding.

"We’re making the facility safer by running those things and all of that costs money and we’ve developed those programs while they’ve cut our resources and we rely very heavily on this money to do that," Stolle explained.

There's another source of potential revenue for Virginia jails on the horizon as well - they'll soon be able to charge fees for online video visitations.

"If someone wants to get on their computer and go to a web-link in the jail to visit with someone, we ought to be able to charge a reasonable fee to do that," Stolle said.

Stolle expects to offer an online video visit in Virginia Beach within a year, however, he says the jail will not get rid of the current in-person video visitations that it offers for free.