Four jail inmates working at the Fauquier County landfill as part of a workforce program tested positive for illegal drugs Feb. 3. Two county employees were fired after the incident, and another resigned.
The four inmates have been removed from the Fauquier County Adult Detention Center’s workforce program, which allows inmates to perform work at county facilities for a small stipend. Three other inmates in the program work at another county facility and were not involved.
Fauquier County Administrator Paul McCulla said that one environmental services supervisor has resigned as a result of the incident and two employees have been terminated. Apparently, “one of the inmates was allowed to use an employee’s phone, which is not permitted,” said McCulla. “And an inmate’s ‘sister’ showed up at the landfill,” which may have been how the drugs were delivered there. Workforce program inmates are not permitted visitors at work sites.
McCulla said that a supervisor at the landfill notified the sheriff’s office that there seemed to be something “off” with the four inmates working there on Feb. 3.
Fauquier County Sheriff’s Office Cpl. Warren Williams, who is in charge of the workforce program, said that the men tested positive for methadone, Suboxone and marijuana when they returned to the jail. One man also tested positive for alcohol. No new criminal charges were filed against the inmates since they were not in possession of any illegal substances when they were searched, Williams said.
The county administrator said that one of the terminated employees said another worker “had gotten high” with an inmate. The other employee who was let go may have been involved in the theft of an electronic device that had been turned in at the landfill.
The Criminal Investigations Division of the sheriff’s office handled the investigation; they were not able to identify any criminal activity by landfill employees. Williams said that he doesn’t know if this has happened before with these inmates. “It’s rare, but this kind of thing has happened before.” Inmates are searched daily before they go to the landfill and when they return, he added.
Inmates receive $3 a day for their work. They qualify for the program if they have not been charged with any felonies, have not been convicted of assaulting a police officer and have had no drug charges in the past three years. “The intent is rehabilitation,” said Williams. “It’s a position of trust.”
Williams said that one of the inmates involved apologized to him for letting him down. “He said he knows how much work we put into the program. He knew I was very disappointed.”
For now, said Williams, the workforce program at the landfill is suspended. He said that the sheriff’s office will review the processes and procedures of the workforce program. For instance, inmates have in recent years worked in areas throughout the landfill property. In the future they will no longer be permitted in public-facing areas. They will instead be assigned to areas where they will be easier to monitor and harder for them to interact with the public.
Williams said, “We are working with environmental services to pin down a more secure situation, to have more eyeballs on them.”
Fauquier County Sheriff Jeremy Falls said, “We will fine-tune this so it doesn’t happen again.” He added, “The good thing is that the system worked. The burden of proof for an inmate is not as great as for a regular citizen. They test positive and they are out of the program.”
McCulla said that environmental services supervisors will be re-trained on correct procedures. He also pointed out that the incident is a significant blow to the landfill’s operations. Not only has the environmental services department lost three employees; the department has also lost the services of the four inmates who had been a part of the landfill’s workforce, he said.