Prison Could See New Life as Civil Commitment Facility
(01/12/2011)

LAWRENCEVILLE, Va. — The Brunswick Correctional Center closed in 2009 but may reopen as a step-down facility for sexual offenders, according to officials.

The proposal to reopen the facility is currently moving through the General Assembly and budget process.

Inmates who are civilly committed by a judge to the state’s violent sexual predator program as they transition back to society would be housed at the former prison.

The inmates that will be recommended for the facility are still considered sexual predators and a danger to society, according to officials. Although they will have served their prison sentences, they are not deemed rehabilitated and ready for release. Many are repeat offenders who committed the most serious sexual crimes.

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Inmates will have more freedom inside the prison but will not be allowed to leave.

Gov. Bob McDonnell is asking the General Assembly to give him the authority to borrow $43.5 million to renovate the former prison and install 300 beds. He requested an additional $24.4 million to continue operating the Virginia Center for Behavioral Rehabilitation in Nottoway County, which serves the same purpose, and to ensure that it runs at full capacity.

The House of Delegates version of the budget is expected around mid January and the Senate version in mid-February. The compromise budget will be announced in mid-March.

Residents are skeptical about using the former prison as a holding place for sexual offenders but officials said it would create employment in Lawrenceville and Brunswick County, which lost 700 jobs when the facility closed.

In 2008 the state opened the Nottoway County facility to house 300 inmates. By the end of the year it housed 239 men on a two-year budget providing funding for just 200 men.

The number of crimes that make inmates eligible for the program was expanded from four to 28 and that change increased the number of eligible inmates by 350 percent. Both changes are factors in requiring another facility, according to a report by the Department of Behavioral health and Developmental Services.

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