City Manager Jim Bourey has announced plans to close the Newport News City Prison Farm by the end of June at the latest. The decision is based on a consultant’s report that has identified $8.2 million needed in improvements to the nearly 100 year old correctional facility. The City Manager has met with all of the affected employees and emphasized that none of them will lose their job; the roughly 55 staff members will be placed in other positions in the City. All inmates will be transferred to the Newport News City Jail under Sheriff Gabe Morgan.
Built in 1918, the Newport News City Prison Farm (a.k.a. the City Farm), located at 100 City Farm Road, is a minimum security correctional facility with the capacity to house up to 262 inmates. There are currently 124 inmates at the City Farm. Eligible inmates are allowed to serve on community work details performing construction, graffiti removal, and mowing operations on city property and rights-of-way at an estimated value of $740,000 annually.
“As identified in the study, it is more cost effective for us to close the City Farm than invest millions of dollars in this facility,” said Bourey. “This decision is based solely on the evaluation of the operation and best way to handle the inmates being housed there. It is not based on the issue of the future use of the property. We will work with the staff, the community and City Council in developing a plan for the reuse of the City Farm property.”
Due to concerns about the physical facilities and operation of the City Farm, the City Manager last year initiated a review of the operation. The risk assessment study was conducted by CGL, a consulting firm with a high level of expertise and experience in the field of criminal justice facilities. Several major issues were identified through the study including problems with security, mechanical, electrical, plumbing and structural systems, as well as with operational infrastructure (e.g., housing units, kitchen, etc.). The consultant recommended closing the City Farm facility and relocating the inmate population to the jail while retaining the current community work program. This will be done through an agreement between the City and the Sheriff’s Office and will still allow for the use of inmate labor to perform work in the City.
“Based on the significant deficiencies and safety concerns identified in the study, it is imperative that we move quickly to relocate the inmates and close the City Farm,” Bourey said.
The City Manager’s plan includes moving all inmates to the care of the Sheriff at the City Jail with any over flow going to the Hampton Roads Regional Jail. City Farm employees who currently staff the work crew operations will move to the Department of Public Works and continue to supervise inmates that are identified by the Sheriff to perform work for the City.