Virginia has a new, sophisticated maximum-security prison with about 100 guards and cooks, but no prisoners, a state senator charged today.
State corrections officials later conceded that Sen. A. Joe Canada (R-Virginia Beach) was partially correct in his charges about the state's new $6.3-million prison scheduled to open March 1 in Mecklenburg County near the North Carolina line.
Because of construction problems at the remote location, corrections spokesman Wayne Farrar said today that the 117-member prison staff was hired sooner than needed. All are now assigned to other prison units around the state or are supervising final construction of the new prison, he said.
Canada, who made his charges in a brief Senate speech today, said he believed the guards had been at the prsion "for a substantial period" and asked the Senate Finance Committee to investigate the prison's budget.
Farrar said prison officials initially began hiring the Mecklenburg workers in mid-August, anticipating a Jan. 1 opening of the prison said it might finish the prison by November and the state officials "accelerated" their hiring and training, he said.
But Mecklenburg County officials who were to supply the prison with water and sewage lines have had difficulty getting water to the prison and as a result, the opening date was pushed back to March 1, he said. "I don't know if there is water running in the pipes today," Farrar said.
He said the decision to hire the prison staff before the inmates began arriving at the prison was a proper one. "Obviously you can't wait for the prisoners to arrive and then begin hiring and training your staff," he said.