State inspectors visit Virginia Beach Jail following 13News Now Investigation

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by Nick Ochsner, 13News Now

WVEC.com

Posted on February 24, 2014 at 7:28 PM

Updated Thursday, Feb 27 at 4:08 PM

VIRGINIA BEACH -- Repeated complaints from the mother of an inmate at the Virginia Beach Jail has led to a visit by state inspectors.

Inspectors with the Virginia Department of Corrections visited the Virginia Beach Jail on Wednesday, just one day after a 13News Now Investigation focused on allegations of substandard healthcare at the jail.

Virginia Beach Sheriff Ken Stolle confirmed the visit but the Virginia Department of Corrections refused to acknowledge one took place.

The jail contracts with Conmed Healthcare Management, Inc. to provide healthcare services at the jail.

Rhonda Lyness, whose son has been incarcerated at the jail since last fall, has made multiple complaints to the Sheriff's Office about the care her son has received.

In January, Lyness wrote a  letter to Sheriff Ken Stolle, stating that her son received inadequate care while at the jail and may have sustained injury as a result. She also wrote that she plans to hire an attorney.

In an interview on Friday, Stolle said Lyness' son has received appropriate care and has been uncooperative with deputies.

Stolle also said providing care to inmates at the jail is much more difficult than providing medical services to citizens on the street.

"I don't know that I'm ever gonna be happy with the medical services that we provide. This is a hard clientele to provide medical services to," Stolle said. "They're not healthy - they're abusive, they do what they want to do and so it's a challenge to start off with. But, that doesn't relieve me of my responsibility to provide medical care to these people."

On Monday, Stolle responded in a letter to Lyness, acknowledging that inspectors visited the jail and did not find any violations.

Jamie Fellner, a senior adviser at Human Rights Watch, said most systems used in states to monitor local jails are inadequate to ensure appropriate conditions.

"Time and time again, when there is some sort of disaster -- when somebody dies -- there's a major lawsuit, people will go in and experts will discover serious, persistent ongoing problems that should have been discovered long ago," she said.

Stolle said he has gone to great lengths to improve the level of healthcare provided at the jail, often allocating extra money without receiving extra resources.

"We don't want anybody in pain in here. We don't want them getting hurt or anything else like that, and we certainly don't want them dying in here," Stolle said.

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