Riverside Regional Jail faulted in two inmate deaths and placed under closer state supervision

By FRANK GREEN Richmond Times-Dispatch

In a review of two 2017 inmate deaths at Riverside Regional Jail in Prince George County, the state found shortcomings that may have contributed to the incidents.

Riverside Regional Jail was placed under closer state supervision Tuesday — and forced to receive two unannounced audits every six months — by the Virginia Board of Corrections in the wake of two inmate deaths in 2017.

The board placed the facility on “probationary certification” for three years after the board’s jail review committee found shortcomings at the facility in Prince George County that may have directly or indirectly contributed to the deaths of two inmates in 2017. The committee also concluded there was evidence that the jail was out of compliance with some of the board’s regulations.

In other actions Tuesday, the board imposed probationary certification for one year on the Portsmouth City Jail for two deaths that occurred there.

Although a shortcoming in the management of pharmaceuticals was noted in the Jan. 8, 2018, death of an inmate at the Virginia Beach Jail, no disciplinary action was taken by the board.

In the Riverside Regional Jail case, in addition to the unannounced inspections, the facility must submit quarterly reports to the board on its compliance with state regulations.

The jail serves Chesterfield, Charles City, Prince George and Surry counties and the cities of Hopewell, Colonial Heights and Petersburg. The prior superintendent left last year and in January an interim superintendent told state officials that the facility has increased its staff and implemented new procedures.

According to the summary of an investigative report into one of the Riverside deaths, Alex Wesley Tripp, 32, was found hanging in his cell at Riverside on Oct. 31, 2017, less than a day after he was booked on charges of petit larceny, obtaining money under false pretenses and two drug violations.

At Tuesday’s Board of Corrections meeting, its jail review committee found that in that case the jail violated regulations concerning the medical screening of inmates upon admission and regulations on the supervision of inmates.

Regulations require that inmates be checked at least twice per hour at random intervals, but the report found that the last observation of the area where Tripp was held was almost four hours before his body was discovered.

In the other Riverside death, Benjamin Scott Wash died at the facility on Nov. 30, 2017, in his cell of an apparent suicide. On Tuesday the Board of Corrections faulted the jail for its handling of medical screening in his case.

Written policy requires a medical screening for all inmates after admission, including questions about past and present drug use, depression and suicidal tendencies.

The Board of Corrections also faulted the Portsmouth City Jail for inmate deaths on Aug. 21, 2017, and Jan. 18, 2018, in both cases finding violations of regulations concerning inmate medical screening and supervision.

Last year, the Board of Corrections and a state investigator began reviewing all jail deaths in the state going back to July 2017.

On Tuesday, the investigator, T. Stephen Goff, reported that the board has closed 47 cases thus far. He said he has 16 open cases with 10 of them awaiting autopsy reports. Only one case from 2018 remains, and the rest are from this year, he said.



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