Jail officials said they plan to meet this week to select a contractor for the roughly $35 million expansion, which will see a total of 592 beds added to jails in Duffield, Abingdon and Haysi.
“At this point the money has been borrowed and we’re meeting next Thursday to decide on a construction management team,” Southwest Virginia Regional Jail Superintendent Steve Clear said. “That’s the company that will be actually doing the building.”
Clear said the jail authority is hoping to break ground on the expansion in August or September. Once construction begins, Clear said its could take between 16 to 18 months to complete.
Although the facilities were completed in 2005, Clear said the project is needed to address increasingly crowded conditions at the jails in question.
An example of that overcrowding can be found at the Southwest Virginia Regional Jail in Duffield, which was originally built to house 275 inmates. As May 24, the jail housed 551 inmates.
In the past, regional jail officials said the entire system averages between 1,500 and 1,600 inmates at any given time despite being built to hold 896 total.
Clear said the need for expansion is due mainly to a change in the way the state classifies inmates.
“In 2009, the state changed their definition of a state-responsible inmate,” Clear said. “They went from one-year sentencing to two-year sentencing, so for the localities it caused a jump in the number of local-responsible inmates, and that was the main driver behind what’s causing us to expand.
“The original plans drawn up in 2003 called for the facilities to look at expansion in 2015, but because of that change it made it three years sooner.”
Clear said the expansion is being funded jointly by the state and the 10 jurisdictions — which include Scott, Lee and Wise counties — the jail system serves.
“The total cost for all three facilities, including the architect and construction and everything will be about a $35 million project,” Clear said. “When it comes to that $35 million, the state is going to put in a little over $17 million of it. Once we complete the project the state will reimburse us for that half, then we’ll finance the remaining amount long-term.”