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Henrico jail’s rising women population leaves people sleeping on floor

HENRICO, Va. -- The drastically rising number of women in Henrico County's jails led county leaders to reach out for Chesterfield for help.

Sheriff Wade says 239 beds are allocated for women between the eastern and western jails.  However, the total average female inmate population in Henrico for 2017 was 268.  That's drastically up from just last year.

The sheriff says the opioid crisis is the largest contributor to overcrowding.  Human trafficking cases, including prostitution, have also caused an increase in the female population.

"The women's population just exploded over the last year,” said Sheriff Mike Wade. “We have anywhere from 10 to 15 pregnant women a day in the jail- everyday."

Sheriff Wade says he does not plan to transfer inmates to Chesterfield who are in Henrico's RISE or ORBIT drug rehabilitation programs, or inmates with other medical needs.

Currently 400 inmates, 70 women, are in rehab program in Henrico County jails.

Yet many more, like Bonnie Venable, would like to participate. She said her addiction has ruined the lives of her loved ones and she is ready for change.

"Overcrowding is our biggest issue that we have here,” Venable said. She shares the detox pod with 37 other female inmates. Yet there are only 10 cells with beds. Another pod has 32 female inmates with just six cells.

Women are sleeping on the floor, including some women who have disabilities.  In some pods there are more women on the  floor than the beds.

They are also limited on toilet paper and pads; things of great necessity.

In response to overcrowding problems Sheriff  Wade reached out to Chesterfield County, and a deal was struck.

In September, Henrico's Board of Supervisor's voted to give the Chesterfield Sheriff's Office $750,000 to cover the costs of housing 50 female inmates at Chesterfield's jail.

Sheriff Wade said that housing female inmates in Chesterfield is just a short-term solution.  The county manager is reviewing plans to renovate the current western jail, while moving administration offices to another building.  Other inmate housing options are also being explored.

In the meantime Sheriff Wade says he'll continue to push for more jail space in Henrico and more beds in the rehab program.

"If we can control their lives long enough for them to get control of themselves- then i think we've done something,” Wade said.