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Middle River Regional Jail officials handling COVID-19 case spike

MRRJ Superintendent Jeffery Newton presents information at the authority meeting Tuesday, Oct....
MRRJ Superintendent Jeffery Newton presents information at the authority meeting Tuesday, Oct. 5. (WHSV)(WHSV)
Published: Oct. 5, 2021 at 9:48 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA COUNTY, Va. (WHSV) - Middle River Regional Jail is coming off a COVID-19 case spike, just like Shenandoah Valley.

Jail superintendent Jeffery Newton said when cases spike in the community, they tend to go up in the facility, too. The MRRJ authority discussed bonuses, COVID-19 numbers and staffing at their meeting Tuesday, Oct. 5.

Newton said there are 570 inmates who are not vaccinated and 234 who are. However, six of 28 inmates vaccinated got COVID-19 in the recent surge.

Sick inmates were quarantined to two housing units and Newton said they are hopeful their efforts to isolate the illness worked. So far, one unit has come off quarantine, but Newton said COVID-19 isn’t the only challenge right now.

“We’ve been able to avoid the spread of it to the general population. It’s a challenge, when we’re as crowded as we are. We’ve got twice as many inmates as we’re supposed to have,” Newton said.

He said the increased population is due to a lack of inmate transfers. On top of that, they’re dealing with an employee shortage. He said they’re looking to fill 35 open guard positions.

Of intakes, Newton reported only 8% have been able to verify they’re vaccinated.

“Staff are working hard. The challenge is exacerbated by the low number of folks that are coming into our custody,” Newton said.

Newton said at the meeting they plan to offer some incentives to getting vaccinated.

“Providing inmates with some commissary items, some additional phone time they don’t have to pay for as an incentive for them to participate in receiving a vaccine,” he said.

He said there are other facilities in the commonwealth that have had success with programs like these.

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