Shenandoah University to host Veterans Community Engagement Forum – Royal Examiner
After a few jokes about a handover with the election of officers for the coming year, Warren County Sheriff Mark Butler’s comment stood – “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” , this is my appointment,” he said. And that said, the current leaders of the RSW Jail Authority Board of Directors were reappointed and unanimously re-elected. They are President Garrey Curry (Rappahannock County Administrator), Vice President Evan Vass (Shenandoah County Administrator), and Secretary-Treasurer Ed Daley (Warren County Administrator).
Two topics dominated the discussions of the Committee and the Board of Directors on Thursday, May 26. These included staffing issues related to the scarcity of applications to fill uniformed guard positions among the 48 vacancies currently listed facility-wide, and an ongoing cost/benefit analysis of the opportunity to enter into an accreditation contract with the ACA (American Correctional Association).
This last topic was somewhat related to an update on the proposed budget for the 2022-2023 fiscal year. Go ahead with a budget of $16,345,491, with a 5% COLA (cost of living law) listed for employees, as opposed to a 10% COLA option which would add $369,360 to the budget total, has been suggested and approved since the board of prison authority, like commonwealth municipalities, is still working without final state budget figures. Those numbers were promised on June 1, Ed Daley observed of the signals from Richmond. The only change from the budget presented in April was a $28,000 increase in annual VACO insurance coverage, staff said.
Staffing options for those under 21
On the personnel issue, prison superintendent Russ Gilkison put forward a proposal to consider hiring 18-21 year olds in unarmed positions to assist fully certified deputies in the performance of their duties. . Various regulations would apply to these young employees, including that they be paired with experienced employees when working in inmate accommodation areas to avoid one-on-one interactions with inmates.
Responding to a question, Gilkison said the civil openings were filled fairly quickly; however, this was not the case for uniformed NCO positions. Highlighting applicants for guard positions, the prison warden noted that there had been a number of applicants under the age of 21 enthusiastic about the opportunity to become uniformed law enforcement officers. As for hiring 18- to 21-year-olds, he told the Jail Authority board: “I wouldn’t want to arm them. They wouldn’t be in positions where they would be out and doing transports. We would not use them anywhere where they would be alone and take care of the inmates.
“We’re just trying to be creative in getting people in the door, getting them interested in the career,” he told the board. And he noted that this was a strategy used in other regional prisons to deal with the same mismatch of applicants to fill vacant guard positions.
Warren Butler County Sheriff expressed some concern and opposition to the idea. He cited the difficulty of putting behind them young people with minimal life experience in the rather complex position of dealing with convicted felons often adept at reading people for an advantage.
“I understand your concerns. I wouldn’t want them working independently,” Gilkison told Butler.
Much discussion ensued regarding methods of assessing the strengths and weaknesses of potential candidates, regardless of their age. Suggestions were discussed, including phasing in younger candidates as frontline civilian employees, while training them in guard assist duties and evaluating them for possible certification as law enforcement at the age of 21.
Eventually, Gilkison asked for direction from the board on the way forward. President Curry noted that it was the responsibility of the Board of Directors to provide direction to the Superintendent to deal with the ongoing staffing shortage either by allowing for the gradual onboarding of young candidates as had been described or by him giving tools to increase the pool of candidates in other ways. After a few failed motions to facilitate Gilkison’s suggested plan, Shenandoah County Sheriff Tim Carter observed that existing codes allowed people to be hired at 18, so without a direct council veto, the superintendent could go from forward as suggested.
After reading the applicable code, Warren Butler County Sheriff agreed with Sheriff Carter that since the existing codes allowed the superintendent to proceed as he had proposed, he was authorized to do so with the precautions in place as described. Warren’s supervisor, Delores Oates, observed that regardless of age, the best course of action was to hire the best candidates available. She also noted that Warren County Public Schools plans to implement a “criminal justice” program in the next school year, which could contribute to a pool of more qualified 18-21-year-old applicants in the schools. years to come.
“The code allows it, so I think it’s moot if we just repeat what he says,” Oates added on the need for a motion allowing Gilkison to move forward on personnel issues, including hiring qualified candidates under the age of 21. Thus, without direct action, a consensus was reached, albeit with some lingering concerns still voiced by Sheriff Butler, to allow Gilkison to move forward with hiring younger candidates who were deemed qualified. to be gradually integrated according to the precautionary methods described while working towards an eventual application of the law. sous garde certificate at the age of 21.
As noted above, the cost-benefit ratio has remained the main point of discussion in the evaluation of an approach to obtaining official accreditation from the American Correctional Association (ACA). Statistics noting ACA-accredited local and regional correctional facilities were presented as they were at the April meeting, along with some cost projections and comparisons to Department of Corrections (DOC) accreditation. ) mandated by the state.
Superintendent Gilkison reiterated figures presented in April: of 23 regional prisons, including RSW, only 2 are ACA accredited; and out of 36 local prisons, 7 are ACA accredited for a total of 9 accredited out of 59 Commonwealth prisons.
To implement and maintain ACA status, an estimated “annual fee” of $13,500 has been estimated by staff. And that does not include necessary staff increases or other annual audits and related expenses, a staff agenda summary pointed out.
Regarding additional staff, Gilkison said that while he was not finished calculating the total number that would be needed, his initial exploration indicated 6 new medical staff positions, as well as a fire safety and certification position. . This total of 8, it seems, would be compounded by the need to maintain some, if not all of the new positions, for all shifts.
Sheriff Butler remarked that he believed increased credentialing standards were the future of law enforcement and advised to stay one step ahead. In the ensuing conversation, he observed that by exploring ACA standards, which differ from state-mandated DOC standards, the facility can become aware of potentially increased standards and implement them.” if applicable” without actually seeking ACA’s accreditation oversight and fees.
For that seemed to be the board’s overriding concern – “Do we want to invest that amount of money,” asked board vice-chairman Evan Vaas of a self-initiated effort to obtain and maintain ACA certification, as noted above. , certification that is not mandated by the state.
It was also noted that some physical installation issues on RSW’s layout would prevent the prison from meeting some of the ACA standards at no additional cost. If any of these existing limitations crept into the “ACA Mandatory Standards,” it would further prevent the establishment from gaining the accreditation it would pay to seek. Board member Oates also noted that they had just approved a budget that did not include the ACA’s minimum additional staffing requirement of six new medical staff positions.
But with Gilkison believing he was 75 per cent through crunching all the numbers with great help from staff, the board consensus was that he complete the assessment process.
And with a quick acknowledgment of the previous finance and personnel committee meeting convened at 1:30 p.m. and no other “outstanding issues” on the table, the meeting of the RSW Regional Prison Authority Board of Directors was adjourned at 3:10 p.m. The next scheduled board meeting is set for July 28 at 2 p.m., with the F&P committee meeting scheduled to precede it.