not-so-obvious way, consolidated correctional system keeping W.Va. safer
W.Va. – Arresting criminal suspects can be daunting enough. But
for law enforcement in some parts of West Virginia, taking them to jail has presented
its own challenges. The recent unifying of the state’s correctional agencies is
changing that for the better.
There are only 10 jails in West Virginia.
That has resulted in lengthy transports of arrestees: law enforcement in
Monongalia, Marion and Wood counties have had to drive to Doddridge County and
back, for instance; their colleagues in Fayette, Greenbrier and Monroe face a
Raleigh County round trip.
Legislation signed by Gov. Jim Justice
last year allows the new state Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation to
establish holding cells as dropping-off points for law enforcement. Three have
opened so far: in Parkersburg; at the Saint Marys Correctional Center in
Pleasants County; and at the Mount Olive Correctional Complex in Fayette
“Being able to transport prisoners to the Wood
County Holding Center in Parkersburg has greatly improved our ability to get
our officers back on patrol,” said Wirt County Chief Deputy G.M. Deem. “The 20-minute
drive to Parkersburg is far better than the two-hour round trip to the North
Central Regional Jail.”
Just those three holding facilities have
saved law enforcement an estimated 1,300 man-hours and 80,000 vehicle miles
between July 1, when the law took effect, and early March. Together, they have
allowed 17 law enforcement agencies to drop off more than 1,100 arrestees.
“Those are staggering numbers. The Police
Department is appreciative of the new system,” said Parkersburg Police Chief
Joseph Martin. “This has financially benefited my agency.”
The resulting savings to taxpayers is
estimated at $75,000 and counting in personnel and vehicle wear-and-tear costs.
And county and local law enforcement aren’t the only beneficiaries.
“The Saint Marys Center has helped our troopers
from having to travel an hour and 45 minutes out of their shift to take a
prisoner to Doddridge County and the North Central Regional Jail,” said State
Police Capt. C. A. Light. “This has enabled the trooper to be available to the
public when he would have been driving. In a small county such as Pleasants,
the availability of officers on duty is usually one trooper and one deputy.
This allows an officer to be more available.”
The Division of Corrections and
Rehabilitation, which is part of the Department of Military Affairs and Public
Safety, expects to open additional holding cells soon at the Huttonsville
Correctional Center in Randolph County and the Lakin Correctional Center in
Military Affairs and Public Safety
Secretary Jeff Sandy noted that the counties and municipalities will save an
additional $5.2 million a year through the correctional consolidation, starting
July 1. That is when the state will take over the cost of housing inmates in
jails starting the day after conviction. The cost switchover has been much
later, following sentencing.
“The Justice administration developed the holding
center program to keep our state’s law enforcement on the road to protect our
citizens. The Justice administration also took the lead to help West Virginia
counties with their increasing regional jail costs in multiple strategic moves,”
Sandy said. “The consolidation of prisons and jails has eliminated duplicated
duties, such has transportation of inmates, training, vehicles, and even
uniforms. The holding center program will continue to grow over the next two
years along with other consolidated efforts.”