PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WVEC) -- There's a new man in charge of the Hampton Roads Regional Jail, and he's tackling a staffing situation some have called “dire.”
In January, jail leaders lobbied the General Assembly for more money to fund more positions, but they didn't get it. The interim superintendent is now trying a different tactic.
“Coming in here you've got to identify the best plan to go forward,” said Lt. Col. David Hackworth, who has only been on the job for about a month.
The interim superintendent came to a jail with a unique mission. Before he arrived, the officers handled incarceration, medical, and mental health needs of inmates.
Hackworth has moved some COs off larger teams for things like maintenance and transportation, and brought them back to the cell blocks. Shifting resources allows them to cut down on the mandatory overtime, which left officers drained.
“There are five different ways to do things, and we look for what's going to provide the best for this jail,” Hackworth said.
He's also looking at jobs differently.
“We realized that there were a number of positions here that were sworn positions, that didn't need to be sworn,” he described. “They could be filled by people who didn't want to be jail officers. Not everyone wants to go through the training and go through defensive tactics.”
He believes positions in the jail lobby, mail, and records rooms don't need to be filled by sworn officers. Hiring civilians for those jobs would allow officers to go back to security posts.
When Hackworth took the reins, there were about 42 vacancies. In about four weeks, 12 spots have been filled.
“To think that this is not a good place to work, what I would say is if you're interested in this career, apply here,” he said. “If you get the opportunity to do it and come in and see for yourself. If you're looking for a challenge, this is a good place to come.”
The jail is still looking to bring on 30 to 35 more staff members. The goal is to have the positions filled within the next two to three months.