The Hampton Roads Regional Jail, located in Portsmouth, will receive nearly $1 million in grant money to fund projects that provide services to inmates with mental illness. The awarded funds, which were announced on Monday, will be given to the jail over the next two years.
The grants were approved by the Criminal Justices Services Board on Dec. 8 and will come from grants appropriated to the Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS).
“In a jail where over half of the inmate population is prescribed mental health medications, this grant will allow us to explore new ways to further treat these people not just house them and watch them get trapped in a cycle of recidivism,” Bob McCabe, the jail’s interim superintendent, said in a news release.
The jail submitted their program concept in September. The DCJS, along with the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services and the State Compensation Board, reviewed applications and selected six Virginia jails, including the Hampton Roads Regional Jail.
The award was announced just hours after the Department of Justice reported that the jail will be investigated to determine if the jail’s current program “violates the constitutional rights of inmates who have mental illness by secluding them in isolation for prolonged time periods and violates the rights of inmates who have mental illness by denying them access to services, programs and activities because of their disability.”
The funds will support programs that will use a new approach to identify, track and improve services to inmates with mental illness and provide specialized training to staff to identify mental illness. The jail will work to decrease recidivism, enhance public safety and reduce long-term costs. Grant funds will also allow for the creation of new positions, such as care coordinators, care counselors, therapists and a mental health systems manager.
“It is imperative that individuals requiring mental health services receive the proper care from the state, especially in situations where the person is incarcerated,” said Governor Terry McAuliffe in a news release. “The grants appropriated to DCJS will improve the services and accountability of our judicial facilities and ultimately safeguard the well-being of detained individuals requiring mental health care. We will continue to look for innovative solutions and pilot programs to better equip our judicial system and law enforcement to handle mental health needs and better crisis interventions.”
The pilot program will launch on Jan. 1, 2017. The DCJS will provide reports on the program’s effectiveness in October 2017 and October 2018.