Sussex prison cell doors to be replaced to combat inmate jamming

By: Michael Campbell | Twitter: @itsthesoup
Posted: March 4, 2020 | 1:30 p.m.

$13 million, 1,400-door project to take three years to complete

VIRGINIA – Officials with the Virginia Department of Corrections announced last week their intention to spend millions to replace all of Sussex I and II State Prisons’ cell doors, explaining the current doors aren’t closing properly due to inmates jamming them.

That work is expected to begin within the next 60 days and take approximately three years to complete at a cost of $13.6 million.

According to corrections officials, cell doors at both Sussex I and Sussex II can be opened and closed control booth’s at each of the jail’s various pods but, they explained that the doors at the two state prisons were “designed differently” than those at other state facilities and “inmates are able to jam the doors to prevent them from closing completely,” creating safety issues for both inmates and staff at the prisons.

Lisa Kinney, communications director for the VADOC said there have been “more than 500” jamming incidents at Sussex I and II over the last two years.

“While offenders at many VADOC facilities live in dorms, offenders at Sussex I and Sussex II live in cells due to the offenders’ high security levels. Most cells house two offenders,” they said last week, noting the cells are currently being secured with keyed locks.

In total, 704 cell doors will be replaced in each of the two facilities.

With that shift in locking mechanisms, state corrections representatives said “additional staff assigned to each pod while the keyed locks are in place in case of an emergency in which the cell doors need to be opened quickly for inmate evacuation” and they are actively working with the fire marshal’s office.

VADOC’s actions come just over a week after an inmate died following a suspected “inmate-on-inmate in-cell attack,” the second prisoner death at the jail since August of 2019.

Ebony K. Auddi, 49, died on Feb. 12 after being hospitalized at Richmond’s VCU Medical Center on January 30 after an apparent assault.

Last Summer, 45-year-old Pakastan Algier Gary was pronounced dead at Southside Regional Medical Center in Petersburg after being seriously injured during an assault by another inmate, with his cellmate Frank Elmo Reid being named a suspect in the man’s death by corrections officials at the time.

When asked, Kinney said cell door jamming doesn’t appear to have been involved in either of the two recent fatal incidents.

According to state prisoner population records, as of January, Sussex I State Prison housed 1,124 offenders and Sussex II had 1,234 inmates jailed at the Waverly facility, combining for just short of 2,360 offenders.

Copyright 2020 by Womack Publishing
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