Head of regional jail to resign at end of year
Former prosecutor took job two years ago, ushered in series of prison condition reforms
JAMES CITY COUNTY — The head of the Virginia Peninsula Regional Jail has resigned, effective at the end of the year.
Tony Pham, 46, of Henrico, took the job about two years ago after a career as a prosecutor. He ushered in a series of reforms meant to improve conditions for correctional officers and inmates. Pham also took the helm of the jail as it continued to face lawsuits alleging maltreatment of inmates.
“I’m very grateful for the opportunity,” Pham said on Monday. “How many times do lawyers get the chance to go from litigation to management?”
Pham worked to create an addiction recovery program called by inmates “We Are In This Together,” as well as technological improvements to give inmates more access to their homes through the use of tablets and workplaces through an ankle monitoring system.
At the same time, VPRJ continued to be sued for correctional officers’ conduct at the jail. The jail has rebutted claims that it should be liable for sexual assaults against inmates that a corrections officer, Henry Thomas Rhim, was convicted of in November 2018.
Pham told The Virginia Gazette in April he had instituted changes at the jail and sought to investigate claims of abuse put forward by inmates. Two months later, James City County Police
Department investigators charged a corrections officer with sexual battery and having carnal knowledge of an inmate after the jail provided investigators all of the material it had collected internally. Charges filed against the officer were later dropped by prosecutors.
Pham said he was resigning to spend time with his family.
“We are saddened to see Tony leave. His tenure there of about two years has done wonderful things at the jail and for the inmates there,” York-Poquoson Sheriff Danny Diggs said. “We are very sad to see him leave. He has a real commitment to his family and I applaud him to have that kind of conviction to his family.”
Diggs, the chairman of the jail’s eight member jail authority, said the board of directors had received 13 applications for the position and it is in the process of interviewing six of the applicants.
“We always hope for anyone who brings a fresh perspective,” Diggs said. “There’s room for improvement in any organization.”