Jail History

Demographic Information

The Roanoke City Jail is located at 324 Campbell Avenue in downtown Roanoke adjacent to the courthouse. The population of Roanoke, the ninth largest city in Virginia, is 96,714. The population of the greater Roanoke metropolitan area is 303,418.

Jail Design

The current Roanoke City Jail was opened in June, 1979, replacing an antiquated facility built in 1915 which was located on the top floor of the old courthouse.

The original design of the current jail reflects the then emerging modular concept of design which was approved by the Virginia Board of Corrections and the U.S. Bureau of Prisons.
 Records System

In 1979, the Roanoke City Jail was selected by the Virginia Supreme Court to serve as a pilot site to develop an automated inmate records system. Prior to the end of the program, the Roanoke City Jail budgeted funds to support the automated system. Since the program began, the system has been continually updated by the addition of new computer equipment and new or additional programs, thus making the system more consistent with the needs and demands of the jail.

Jail Capacity

Initially, the current jail had a rated capacity of 162 inmates, but completion of the shelled pods on the 2nd, 3rd and 4th floors and the completion of the jail addition have resulted in a Board of Corrections rated capacity of 376 inmates and an operating capacity of 409 inmates. The total jail complex has a total of 335 cells. Of this total, 216 of the general purpose cells on the second, third and fourth floors of the main jail and 59 of the general purpose and work release dormitory cells of the new addition have been double bunked due to the increasing inmate population. If every bed in the jail is filled - including the classification holding area beds, segregation beds and infirmary beds, a total of 834 individuals could be accommodated.

Superior Standards

When the "Minimum Standards for Local Jails and Lockups" were established in 1981, the Roanoke City Jail was the first jail in Virginia to receive 100% compliance with all standards which included mandatory, essential, and important standards. The jail is currently certified by the Virginia Board of Corrections every 3 years and is the only jail in Virginia to have received 100 percent compliance on all of its certifications. Reports from the Virginia Department of Corrections, Division of Adult Community Corrections, consistently describe the jail as an "excellent facility" which meets or exceeds all requirements. The jail's policy and procedure manual was described in 1 state inspector's letter of February 21, 1990 as the "the best in the state."

1985 Audit

In 1985, the National Sheriff's Association was asked to audit the Roanoke City Jail. This audit was made possible by a grant awarded to the National Sheriff's Association by the National Institute of Corrections, U.S. Department of Justice. The audit included a thorough and intensive review of jail operations and management which was measured against nationally recognized standards. The on-site audit was conducted by consultants James Murphy and Pete Waters who rated the jail as one of the 2 best jails ever audited. This audit was used as a management tool for the monitoring and improvement of jail operations on a continual basis.

Medical Services

In 1987, the Roanoke City Jail's Medical Section was awarded an accreditation by the National Commission on Correctional Health Care. At this time, the jail was one of the few in this part of the country to receive this accreditation. In order to maintain this accreditation the jail must submit an annual maintenance report and participate in an on site inspection every 3 years. The jail's last inspection was in November 1995.

1990 Audit

In 1990, technical assistance was requested for a general facility audit for a possible accreditation of the Roanoke City Jail by the American Correctional Association. This technical assistance was funded by the National Institute of Corrections (NIC), Jails Division. NIC is a federal agency that provides assistance to state and local correctional agencies in their efforts to improve their operations by making them more effective, humane, and safe. The consultant, James Murphy, who provided the technical assistance, did so on a contractual basis at the request of the Roanoke City Sheriff's Office and through the coordination of NIC. The jail was audited for compliance with American Correctional Association Standards. Mr. Murphy noted that there was no question on his part that the detention functions of the Roanoke City Sheriff's Office are credible, with some minor additions to and revisions of the policies and procedures which are already superior to most.


In 1991, the Roanoke City Jail was honored to receive accreditation by the American Correctional Association. This national recognition was shared by only 2 other jails in Virginia at that time. The jail benefited from more than a year of self-examination in working to comply with almost 400 standards necessary for accreditation. The standards cover such areas as the jail's administration, fiscal management, staff training, maintenance of records, security, food service, sanitation and health care, work programs, and other inmate services and programs. To be accredited by the ACA, a jail must be in compliance with all mandatory standards and 70% of the non-mandatory standards. The Roanoke City Jail met all of the mandatory standards and 98% of the non-mandatory ones and received one of the highest ratings ever received by a jail. The Roanoke City Jail joins about 10% of jails and correctional facilities nationwide to receive accreditation.

In 1994, the Roanoke City Jail received re-accreditation by the American Correctional Association. In the 3 years that the jail was first accredited, the jail was able to increase its compliance with non-mandatory standards to 99.4. The 2 standards found in non-compliance dealt with the jail's physical design, such as double-bunking, which was commonplace when the jail was built. Since these changes in construction are beyond the control of the facility, the Roanoke City Jail has proven that it has addressed perfect compliance every standard that it can possibly address.


In August 1995 a digital imaging fingerprinting system (TENPRINTER®) was put into operation at the Roanoke City Jail. This was done as a pilot project with the Virginia State Police and is connected by computer modem to the Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) in Richmond. This allows for integrated booking and transmission of a detainee's fingerprints and demographic information without ink and automatic identification of prints through AFIS. With the assistance of Roanoke City Department of Technology personnel, we were able to interface the TENPRINTER® system with the current Jail Management computer system to enhance the collection and transmission of demographic and arrest data.


In 1996, work was completed on the Roanoke City Jail Annex creating an additional 331 beds. The annex, which is connected to the main jail facility on the first and second floors, is also a basic pod design concept excluding the segregation unit and the dormitory. This addition houses a new library, new laundry, additional indoor/outdoor recreational areas, a work release dormitory, segregation unit and additional program space. The Sheriff's Office and Civil Process Section also relocated to the new facility.