Virginia Beach sheriff studies impact of jail programs on inmate rehabiltation

Southsidedaily.com is your source for free local news and information in Virginia Beach

vb-jail
Cells in the Virginia Beach Correctional Center. (Adrienne Mayfield/Southside Daily)

VIRGINIA BEACH — The Virginia Beach Correctional Center had 1,337 inmates incarcerated as of Tuesday.

Getting them out of jail is one task. Keeping them out is another.

But a recidivism rate study championed by Virginia Beach Sheriff Ken Stolle could change the way the city’s jail works to rehabilitate inmates.

The multi-phase study will track the number of times convicted criminals re-offend using data from 2012 to 2016. Stolle hopes the study will show which jail reentry programs are helping inmates and which aren’t.

“I’m interested in developing a product that works,” Stolle said. “Recidivism rates measure everything. If you don’t know the recidivism rates, you know nothing.”

Stolle has aimed to study recidivism at the jail since he was first elected to the sheriff’s office in 2009. The study will be the first of its kind at the VBCC.

To analyze the raw data, the sheriff sought help from Old Dominion University. He received it in the form of Randy Gainey, a professor of sociology and criminal justice who agreed to put the study together for free.

Gainey has completed many recidivism studies during his career is and is currently in talks to conduct such studies in Norfolk, Portsmouth and Suffolk.

Gainey said he is currently in the process of analyzing the raw data, phase one of which should be ready for release to the public this spring.

Phase one of the study will detail recidivism rates throughout the entire jail, as well as focus on inmates who are in the substance abuse and reentry programs. Later phases are planned to study other jail populations, like those suffering from mental illness, and to analyze ex-VBCC inmates who have offended outside of Virginia Beach, sheriff’s office spokeswoman Kathy Hieatt wrote in an email.

“We’re really just starting the process, so there aren’t a lot of numbers available now,” Gainey said, adding that he hopes to submit part of his research to the Virginia Beach Sheriff’s Office by the end of the week.

Virginia Beach Sheriff Ken Stolle. (Courtesy of the Virginia Beach Sheriff's Office)
Virginia Beach Sheriff Ken Stolle. (Courtesy of the Virginia Beach Sheriff’s Office)

Stolle said the VBSO plans to use the data to determine if the jail’s programs, like those that deal with substance abuse and reentry, are working to keep people out of jail. The study will also help the VBSO determine which programs to invest money in and where the agency may need to seek more funding from the state, Hieatt said.

While recidivism studies aren’t new, they are often done on a statewide scale and analyze prisons.

In December, the Virginia Department of Corrections released the results of a study on Virginia that concluded that the state has the lowest recidivism rate in the country; however, the study only included prisons and did not include data on inmates who were supposed to go prison but served their terms in local jails due to overcrowding.

The number of inmates “out of compliance” — or who were sentenced to prison, but served their time in a local jail — is about 7,000 around the state. About 300 of those inmates are currently serving time at the VBCC.

“We can accommodate more people. We don’t turn anyone away,” Stolle said.

Mayfield can be reached at adrienne.m@southsidedaily.com.