Staff shortages are hindering a state-funded mental health pilot program for female inmates at the Prince William-Manassas Regional Adult Detention Center even as the jail is reporting a number of successes since the pilot launched in 2017, according to a recent evaluation filed with state officials.
The program aims to reduce recidivism among the jail’s female inmates who suffer from mental illness and provides funding for two mental health specialists, a jail therapist and a re-entry specialist who provide regular mental health screenings, group therapy, individual counseling and re-entry counseling to women held at the jail, according to the October report.
The re-entry specialist position has remained vacant for more than 18 months, however, forcing the jail therapist to assume the duties of both positions, according to the report.
Maj. Amanda Lambert, director of support services at the jail, said the re-entry therapist position still had not been filled as of Nov. 26.
An additional two staff members in the mental health department unexpectedly left in 2019, forcing other staff members to cover the responsibilities of these positions while also continuing to complete their own tasks, the report said.
“These shortages made it difficult to devote time to grant programming and to complete assessments in a timely manner,” the report said.
Even with significant staff shortages, the report identified a decrease in the number of incidents involving harm, assaults against inmates or staff, fights involving inmates and suicide attempts since 2016, the year prior to the program’s implementation.
The report noted that staff credited much of the reduction in incidents with jail staff to their ability to offer more one-on-one counseling.
Prince William-Manassas Adult Detention Center is one of six Virginia jails participating in the pilot program.. It is the only jail that receives specific funding to address the needs of female inmates.
There are typically around 100 women inmates held at the jail at any given time, about 10% of the total inmate population.
A 2018 report by the State Compensation Board found that 34% of female inmates in Virginia’s local jails were diagnosed with a mental illness in 2018, more than double the percentage of male inmates with mentally illness.
The Prince William-Manassas Adult Detention Center has struggled with employee turnover in recent years. The turnover rate reached 16% in 2019, the highest it had been in years, according to jail officials.
The bulk of the unfilled positions are for the entry-level position of jail officer, which has a starting salary of $50,000 and is being advertised on the county’s website.
Lambert said the jail needs to hire more staff as the county’s $44 million jail expansion nears completion. The expansion is slated to be completed in early 2020 and will add an additional 204 beds.
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