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Fairfax County’s Adult Detention Center as Seen on “Lockup Extended Stay” Archived Discussion Room

Fairfax County, Virginia

Fairfax County’s Adult Detention Center as Seen on “Lockup Extended Stay”

The county’s adult detention center has recently been featured on MSNBC’s reality show, “Lockup Extended Stay: Fairfax,” which takes viewers inside prisons and jails across America and around the world. On Monday, Oct. 6 at 10:30 a.m., join Lt. Steve Elbert with the Fairfax County Sheriff’s Office to learn more about what happens behind the scenes at one of the nation’s more unique detention centers.

Steve Elbert : Good morning, I am Lt. Steve Elbert with the Fairfax County Sheriff's Office. I've been with the agency over 22 years. The majority of that time I spent working in the Adult Detention Center. Welcome to Ask Fairfax. I look forward to answering your questions this morning.

Anonymous User : Why are inmates given the loaf instead of the regular food when in isolation?

Steve Elbert : Not all inmates in segregation are given the nutra loaf. If an inmate is found guilty at a disciplinary hearing, our Internal Classification Committee holds a separate administrative hearing to evaluate the need for a special diet. The possibility of having to eat the loaf for three meals a day is an incentive for inmates to cooperate and follow the rules.

Vincent M Scott : What is the maximum length of sentences that is accommodated at Fairfax County's Adult Detention Center?

Steve Elbert : The Fairfax County Adult Detention Center houses both local and state inmates. Inmates convicted of a misdemeanor will get a local sentence of 12 months or less and do all of their time here at the ADC. If they are convicted of a felony, they will be sentenced to one year or more and will become a state inmate. However, because state prisons are overcrowded, we typically house state inmates for an average of 18-24 months before they are transferred to a state prison.

Jackson : Why is it that Fairfax County do not have any programs to help the mental inmates? They are being locked up when actually they should be in a facility to help them...Being in solitary confinement is not the solution and could make the matter worse. Do you foresee any solutions in helping the mentally ill?

Steve Elbert : We do have programs to help inmates with mental illness. The Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board provides jail-based behavioral health services inside the ADC with a staff of about 15 psychologists, social workers and counselors. Most of the inmates with mental health issues are not in segregation. Rather, they are housed in a large area that is quiet, has windows for natural light and is darkened at night for sleeping. Only inmates who pose a safety risk for themselves and others are put in segregation. Sheriff Kincaid is a strong advocate for sentencing alternatives for those suffering from mental illness. The problem is one of resources. There are not enough treatment facilities and bed space to meet the needs of our community. As a result, the ADC is the largest de facto drop-off center for the mentally ill.

Anonymous User : Can anyone in Fairfax county request a tour of the facility? Can you take your teenager/high school student on a tour (is there an age requirement)?

Steve Elbert : Presently, we only offer this type of tour to teens in a court-ordered diversion program. Juvenile Intake Services, within the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court, provides a variety of diversion programs in lieu of the formal court process. Participation in our program is one of the sanctions that a hearing officer can impose. A tour can be arranged for students through a school resource officer at any of the county's middle or high schools. The SRO, who is a police officer, may generate a referral if he or she observes, or receives a report about, a criminal act committed by a student while he or she was in school. We would like to provide group tours a few times a year for the general public, without a judicial system referral. However, we do  not presently have the staff resources to do so. If we can put such a program in place in the future, we will announce it on our website.

Anonymous User : In one of the episodes, there was a fight that took place in a common area, and the deputies had to conduct an investigation into who started it and exactly what happened. Aren't there security cameras everywhere that would catch things like this?

Steve Elbert : There are security cameras in all housing areas. It is an antiquated system that does not have the capability to record. We did a study, and we are in the process of updating our security system. New technology will allow us to record throughout the facility so that we can review incidents during an investigation.

Anonymous User : I was surprised to learn that some inmates are locked outside of their cells for most of the day and instead are placed in a common room with other inmates. What is the benefit of that? It seems like it would either cause more fights or give the opportunity for inmates to plan something together.

Steve Elbert : We do lock some inmates out of their cells during the day. The most important reason is safety and security. While supervising the inmates from their control booth, deputies cannot see into a majority of the cells. Therefore, we lock the inmates out during the day so we can see them all.

We have learned that participation in programs increased when inmates were required to be locked out of their cells. Most people outside of jail spend the majority of their day not closed up in a bedroom. Being active and social is generally positive for inmates. The daily schedule provides a sense of routine for the inmates which they can mimic when they return to the community.

Anonymous User : did you ever try the "special food" ?

Steve Elbert : Yes, I have tried it, and it is edible. It is rather bland, but it's one of the most nutritious meals that we serve in the ADC.

Anonymous User : I understand the facility no longer discharges people at midnight but in the morning so they can access services, transportation, etc. Are you seeing any improvements, problems, changes as a result of this policy change?

Steve Elbert : We have not heard about any problems as a result of this policy change. Feedback we have received from service providers and residents of the community surrounding the ADC has been very favorable.

Anonymous User : How many inmates do you have on a busy day

Steve Elbert : Last year the ADC averaged 1,226 inmates on any given day.

Anonymous User : How much TV time do inmates get per day?

Steve Elbert : Inmates have access to the TV from 8 a.m. until 11 p.m. They get a limited number of channels, which include all the major networks, ESPN and CNN. They can watch live sports if they so choose.

Anonymous User : If the area around the jail safe? My 19 year old son works in the area and ofter gets off work late at nigh and has to walk on the sidewalk next to the facility to carpool. It seemed pretty dark in places and there often seem to be people hanging arouond that are a little rowdy (visitors?).

Steve Elbert : The area around the ADC is safe.

d : The medical unit at ADC sucks - I ended up in the hospital due to the fact they didn't review my medical history and told me that they were going to re-diagnose my meds and not listen to my specialists. When are they going to get qualified medical professionals in there? Even the Deputies said I should have been classified to the medical unit

Steve Elbert : The ADC is staff by qualified medical professionals 24 hours a day. We have 28 licensed nurses, two nurse practitioners, along with support staff. We also contract for 40 physician hours and 12 dentist hours each week.

john : What is the max. time someone will spend in Fairfax ADC?

Steve Elbert : Sentencing is determined by the courts, not the Sheriff's Office. We are housing a few state prisoners who have been with us more than three years.

Anonymous User : are inmates allowed to shower everyday?

Steve Elbert : Yes, inmates in general population have access to the shower every day from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Anonymous User : Can you describe what the typical deputy-inmate relationship is like? I know the deputies must remain professional, but it also seems pretty casual at times as they get to know some of the people housed there.

Steve Elbert : The relationship between an inmate and staff is always professional. While it may appear casual at times, it's really just a product of daily contact. We interact with the inmates all day long. They talk to us about a variety of things. The staff ensures that the relationship is strictly professional in nature.

Anonymous User : Does the jail have a program for inmates to work with rescue animals? How would one go about trying to start a program working with animals if there isn't one now?

Steve Elbert : The ADC does not have this type of program, and we currently have no plans to start one.

Anonymous User : Why do inmates play a game like Monoploy ? How often do they have a Monoploy related fight? They removed bask talk cause it had too many fights?

Steve Elbert : The inmates have access to Monopoly and chess to help pass the time. It is rare that they fight over Monopoly even though that was a documented reason for a fight on one of the Lockup episodes.

Anonymous User : So they won't be allowed to watch the ending of the Monday night football since it ends after 11?

Steve Elbert : That is correct. The TV goes off at 11.

Anonymous User : How did the inmates feel about being filmed for a television show?

Steve Elbert : All of the inmates who appeared in the program did so voluntarily. They signed a release form. We did not have any problem finding inmates willing to be filmed to appear on television. We made sure that any inmates specifically opting out of being filmed did not accidentally appear in the background. We did not allow the film crew access to any areas housing inmates with mental health issues.

Anonymous User : What time do they eat breakfast? And what do they eat?

Steve Elbert : Breakfast is served at 4:30 in the morning. They receive a hot meal that may include pancakes, oatmeal or other typical breakfast items.

Steve Elbert : Thank you for giving me the opportunity to answer your questions generated from the MSNBC Lockup show. The sixth and final episode will air this coming Saturday, October 11, at 10 p.m. MSNBC will re-air all six episodes a couple times later this year.