Future of Portsmouth City Jail debated in court hearing

Posted at 1:56 PM, Sep 25, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-25 19:21:38-04

PORTSMOUTH, Va. - Attorneys debated the future of the City Jail during a court hearing on Wednesday.

Back in July, city staffers put condemned signs on the civic center complex, including the jail. Sheriff Michael Moore sued the city and the signs were removed for 60 days, leading up to Wednesday's hearing.

On Wednesday, Judge Johnny Morrison ruled that the condemned signs can go back up at all parts of the civic center except for the jail. Signs will go back up on the police office, magistrate, and property evidence room. For now, no condemned signs will be on the jail.

Photo: News 3 reporter Nana-Séntuo Bonsu

During the hearing, Moore testified that he considers the jail to be safe.

Attorneys for the city spent most of the morning talking about the other jail in the city - the Hampton Roads Regional Jail. They argued the city should really be sending 250 inmates to to the Regional Jail and say the city is wasting more than $13,000 a day because they're not using all of the slots they pay for.

The city has an agreement with the Regional Jail to pay $66.45 for 250 beds at the Regional Jail. The city has to pay regardless of whether they use all of their allotment.

Councilman Paul Battle testified that there is an effort on city council to close the City Jail and use the Regional Jail in order to save the city money.

Moore said only 43 Portsmouth inmates are are at the Regional Jail because he has concerns over safety at the jail. Last year, a report from the Department of Justice found unconstitutional conditions at the jail following the deaths of several inmates.

Col. David Hackworth, the Superintendent of Hampton Roads Regional Jail, was also called as a witness and said the jail has added medical staff and made other improvements following the report.

Moore also believes the Regional Jail is only supposed to be used when the City Jail is at capacity.