By Katherine Coates
Capital News Service
RICHMOND – It looks like the Brunswick Correctional Center will remain empty for a while longer. A budget amendment proposed by Gov. Bob McDonnell to repurpose the prison has stalled in the General Assembly.
Sen. Frank Ruff, R-Clarksville, said the Senate’s version of the budget included money to reopen the Brunswick facility as a rehabilitation program for sex offenders. But that funding is not in the House version of the budget.
“Until that issue is resolved, I would not encourage people to get too excited,” said Ruff, who supports putting the vacant prison to a new use.
The correctional center in Brunswick County was closed in 2009 by Gov. Tim Kaine as a state budget cut. The abrupt closing eliminated 328 jobs and prompted the area’s residents to travel to the Capitol to protest.
During the legislative session that ends Saturday [Feb. 26], the General Assembly must revise the state budget for the 2012 fiscal year. McDonnell asked for $43.5 million to renovate the Brunswick Correctional Center and turn it into a program for sex offenders.
Under the governor’s proposal, the program would be run by the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services, not by the Department of Corrections. Offenders would stay in the facility for rehabilitation as they transition into going back home.
In his proposed budget amendment, McDonnell said:
“Since 2003, the Commonwealth has operated a sex offender treatment program for individuals who are civilly committed after completing their sentence with the Department of Corrections. Changes enacted in 2006 significantly increased enrollment in the program – facility commitments now range from five to eight every month. The Department was provided funding during the current biennium to operate 200 of 300 beds … Funding is requested to staff and operate the remaining 100 beds to address rising caseloads in the program.
“Enrollment in the program is projected to increase to 343 in FY 2012, exceeding the current capacity of the Nottoway County facility by October, 2011 … A separate amendment requests $43.5 million in bond proceeds to renovate the Brunswick Correctional Facility in Lawrenceville. Based on current projections, an additional 300 beds may needed by FY 2017.”
Delegate Roslyn Tyler, D-Jarratt, did not support eliminating the $43.5 million for the Brunswick prison from House Bill 1500, the House version of the budget.
The House Appropriations Committee, which drafted the House budget, removed the Brunswick renovation from HB 1500. Committee members felt there was a lack of information to support McDonnell’s budget amendment, Tyler said.
“For example, the state does not have a specific count of the number of sexual violent predators in the commonwealth. Will they be able to house two to four inmates in a room? Therefore, in order to address these concerns and others, the amendments delay … the construction of a new facility,” Tyler said.
Brunswick County borders North Carolina, and Nottoway County is just north of Brunswick. The Nottoway facility is called the Virginia Center for Behavioral Rehabilitation.
The center plans to answer the questions posed by the House Appropriations Committee this summer and fall.