Where Does the Buck Stop?

by Jon Baliles

The rise in crime across the region and especially the City is naturally a cause of concern. A rise in crimes against deputies and other inmates in the Richmond Jail is flat-out disturbing. The Free Press went to the City Council Public Safety Committee meeting — that was attended only by Councilwoman Reva Trammell — who discussed the issue with Sheriff Antoinette Irving.

“Just since last Friday, July 22, according to information provided to The Free Press, a female deputy was punched in the face, three inmates suffered serious stab wounds and two inmates had to be revived after overdosing on illegal drugs.”

That followed another “savage attack on a female deputy July 7 that had left the woman with a broken jaw and other injuries.”

The Free Press has been told the sheriff has advised others, including police officers, that the assault never took place and was so upset when the newspaper disclosed it in the July 14-16 edition that she temporarily barred distribution of the edition to inmates and staff.

The assault, however, illustrates the jail’s deterioration of safety and security.
Since Irving took office, there have been reports of deputies being knocked unconscious, being punched in the face, being spit on and having human waste thrown at them. According to sources, Sheriff Irving has not allowed deputies to file charges for the assaults.

Irving said there are 160 vacant deputy positions, up from 100 last year.
“The shortfall has impacted the sheriff’s ability to manage the jail and carry out her other duties, including providing security at the three city courthouses and serving civil papers carrying out evictions.”

“Shifts that once had 40 deputies before she took office in 2018 can muster only 10 or 12 deputies to monitor cameras and patrol the cellblocks or pods that are on all six floors of the building – leaving inmates largely to police themselves.”
Of course, the Sheriff is in charge of staffing and hiring and firing so if those are issues (and 160 vacancies is horrific), and these assaults are occurring so frequently, then the buck stops…where, exactly?

The article continues with some interviews with former deputies but is troubling all the way through as it seems the growing problems we have on our streets seem to be going from bad to worse in jail and no sign of getting better soon.

This column has been republished with permission from RVA 5X5.