Richmond jail diversion showing results

Jeremy Lazarus | 2/17/2015, 7:26 a.m.
The figures reflect the stepped-up efforts by the courts, prosecutors, police, government officials and community service providers to use less ...
Sheriff Woody

The figures reflect the stepped-up efforts by the courts, prosecutors, police, government officials and community service providers to use less costly approaches to justice than jail. The impact on the population at the new Richmond Justice

Center is evident.

On Monday, Jan. 26, Sheriff C.T. Woody Jr. reported holding 1,126 inmates, or 240 fewer than the 1,366 people who were being held in the old City Jail on the same day in 2014.

The result, said a jail spokesman, is that some sections of cells, called pods, “are completely empty.”

The new Richmond jail has a state rated capacity of 1,153 beds, including 108 medical, isolation and other specialty beds, though the jail could hold far more people given the sheriff’s ability to easily turn single beds into bunk beds.

Diversion efforts began in 2012 and have continued to grow.

The cost of the programs is modest compared with the cost of operating the jail. According to the city budget, Sheriff Woody spent about $30 million on jail operations in the 2014 fiscal year that ended June 30, with city taxpayers picking up about $17 million and the state providing most of the rest.

The alternative programs cost about $1.7 million to operate, the city reported.

There are seven separate diversion programs — ranging from those serving ordinary people to those serving the mentally ill and drug addicts.

The largest diversion program allows people accused of nonviolent crimes to remain free without having to post an expensive bond. Crafted by Richmond Commonwealth’s Attorney Michael N. Herring, city judges and Justice Services officials, the program serves individuals who are rated likely to show up for court and who are considered a low risk of being arrested on a new charge before their court hearing.

During the 2014 fiscal year, 1,942 people were diverted from jail as a result of the program, according to the report.

In the first six months of the 2015 fiscal year that began July 1, the program has allowed 1,149 people to stay out of jail pending their court appearances.

The average cost per day per client in fiscal 2014: About $9.48 a day, according to the report. That’s far less than the $65 per day spent to keep someone behind bars in Richmond, state data show.

Another big element of diversion involves supervised probation for individuals who are charged with a misdemeanor or a nonviolent felony and face a sentence of 12 months or less in jail.

During fiscal year 2014, 1,405 people were put on probation instead of serving time in jail. In the first six months of fiscal year 2015, 705 people already have been placed on probation.

The cost of probation also is far less than jailing a person. In fiscal 2014, the program cost $2.57 a day per client.

Electronic monitoring is another part of the diversion effort. In 2014, 259 people were allowed to wear electronic ankle

monitors rather than be kept behind bars. So far this fiscal year, 141 people have put on monitors, with the cost