Fairfax County officials said yesterday they will ask Virginia Gov. Charles S. Robb to block plans to transfer 35 prisoners from a Woodbridge work-release center to a medium-security prison camp in western Fairfax.
The officials' plea to Robb was prompted by a barrage of complaints from residents of the Chantilly area where the prisoners will be housed and from several county leaders protesting the state's plans to mix the "model" work-release prisoners with inmates at the medium-security Camp 30 on West Ox Road.
"They state officials are asking for trouble," said Fairfax Sheriff M. Wayne Huggins, who said the mixture of prisoners is an invitation for Camp 30's inmates to pressure work-release prisoners to smuggle drugs, guns or other contraband into the prison. "Guards are going to be doing nothing but strip-searching inmates -- that's the only thing they can do to search for contraband."
But residents who live in the fast-growing subdivisions that ring the once-rural area near Camp 30 have a different concern. "There's going to be a lot more movement in and out of the facility," said Supervisor Marie B. Travesky, who represents the area. "There's more chance for escape."
"I don't fault anybody for having that concern," said Gene M. Johnson, Northern Virginia regional director for the state Department of Corrections. But he said prison officials do not expect major problems involving the shift of the inmates scheduled for July 1.
Corrections officials said the transfer of the 35 work-release prisoners to Fairfax will mean that fewer medium-security prisoners -- inmates requiring tighter security -- will be housed at the Ox Road facility, which has a capacity of 150 prisoners.
Work-release prisoners are allowed to hold jobs in the community and return to the prison at night, according to prison authorities. Camp 30 now houses minimum-security prisoners who work as unguarded trusties on county road projects as well as medium-security inmates who work on road gangs under the supervision of armed guards.
The prisoner transfer is the result of the Department of Corrections' budget-cutting plan to shut down Unit 6, a work-release center near Woodbridge that houses about 75 prisoners.
Department spokesman Wayne Farrar said the state will save about $479,000 annually by closing the center. Farrar said the General Assembly, prompted by Robb, ordered the department to slice $7 million out of its budget for next year.
Fairfax officials and Chantilly area residents met with state corrections representatives yesterday morning to discuss the plan. Corrections officials said the final decision on the transfer would be determined by the governor, according to Travesky.