CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A top official with the state Regional Jail Authority told state lawmakers Monday there’s a less expensive option that should be considered to the one that would send up to 400 state prison inmates to a private prison outside of West Virginia.

Regional Jails Program Director John Lopez said those state inmates, who are currently housed in regional jails, could get the programs they need for a chance at parole if additional counselors are hired at the regional jails.

“If you hire two counselors at each facility, we have 10 jails, you are looking at about 700-thousand dollars,” Lopez said.

Supporting lawmakers said that would be much cheaper than a plan currently under consideration by the state Division of Corrections. A lone bid was submitted last week that offers a private prison in Kentucky for up to 400 inmates. The proposal is under consideration because the state inmates can’t get the programs they currently need in the regional jails so they are less likely to make parole the first time.

Lopez cautioned lawmakers that if you take too many state prisoners out of the regional jails it’s going to raise the costs for the counties who pay the jail bills.

“If we lose too many more eventually down the road we’re possibly going to have to raise the jail per-diem,” Lopez said. “That’s just commonsense.”

The regional jails currently offer 8 programs for their misdemeanor inmates; only 2 of those are approved for state prison inmates who are lodged in the jails. Lopez said additional counselors and additional programs would accomplish the same goal as the out-of-state prison plan—getting inmates released as early as possible.

“Those two counselors will be able to zero in and focus solely on the convicted felons housed in our jails,” Lopez said.

The private prison bid, which came in last week, is currently under review.


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  • Pancho

    The CCA Kentucky prison would be a disaster.

    CCA has three prisons. One was closed because of all the staff rapes of women there and a massive riot before the women were moved in. Another was not needed. The third, in Beattyville, which is half empty because Kentucky pulled out its inmates, also rioted and it took state correctional officers, police, firefighters, deputies, etc., to put it down.

    Prisoners would rarely get visits there, substantially increasing the recidivism rate.

    Look to see what Kentucky officials would profit from this to understand why the inmates would be shipped there.

    • George

      How would no visits increase recidivism?? M

  • Joe

    Actually, I thought the best idea given to greatly reduce crime, arrests and jail crowding was given in a great scene by Jim Carrey in the movie , "Liar, Liar"......"STOP BREAKING THE LAW ARSEHOLE"!!!!

    • Pancho

      And what laws might you have broken lately?

      Fudged on your taxes? Gotten behind the wheel after four beers? Did 15 mph over the limit?

      Tell us about it.

  • scott

    proof that bigger isn't always better. easier to launder money in this RJA conglomerate. big facilities cost big money to operate. there was nothing wrong with the jail system before this. total waste. takes police officers from their service area where they should be protecting citizens, instead of transporting prisoners at $4/gallon.

  • Woodchuck

    Wow where was this idea before?

    More friends on the politicians payroll.

    Send them to KY and save the money.

  • Docbegone

    Let me review. The Regional Jails were overcrowded because of the backlog of Division of Correction's inmates. The DOC opens Salem and contracts to send inmates out of state where they can voluntarily receive programming. Overcrowding resolved.

    Now the DOC is removing too many inmates and prices must increase for Regional Jails services?

    Let me review. Payroll at the Regional Jails was a problem because of a shortage of staff created by forced overtime. More officers were hired to cut back on overtime. Payroll is reduced. Problem solved.

    Nothing was done to solve the problems that created the turnover and shortages. In six months turnover, shortages of staff, forced o.t. will resume and payroll will increase. They treated the symptom, not the cause.

    Moral of this situation. Hire professional Correctional administrators to run the system. Replace the current Administrator. He was hired because of his political affiliations and not his corrections experience.

    • Backwards

      Absolutely perfect post reflecting the thinking of the RJA. This is what you get when you hire a politician to run a correctional system. Last week it was about drug courts costing them too much money, now it's the danger of the DOC contracting out service...can these folks even balance a checkbook?

    • Backwards

      I am also not sure how Mr. Lopez does his math...the last time I looked a correctional counselor only made about $27,000 a year x 20 is only about $540,000? Where is the other $160,000 going?

      • Kerry

        Talk about balancing a check book. Ever hear of benefits. Those are things like healthcare and pensions.

      • Rich

        You have to factor in the state's cost for its portion of PEIA, retirement, and matches paid on payroll taxes. A business rule of thumb is to multiply the salary by 1.5 to get an estimate of the full cost with matches.

    • Rich

      You're forgetting it was the "politician" who came up with the idea to save overtime by hiring additional officers. He proved to be correct. Sometimes "politicians" have good ideas.

    • George

      The rja seems to be turning around significantly. Because its a state agency, there are a lot of twist and turns you must go thru in order to run an agency, in which the "politician" seems to be doing, successfully. About moving inmates. you will never know how things are going to work, until it actually happens. If it works out fine, keep doing it, if notl, find ways to fix it in ways it wworks.

  • Mitch

    I thought the main point of moving the inmates out of the regional jails was to curb the serious over-crowding issue. Leaving the DOC inmates in place so they can get the classes they need, will not help with the over-crowding issue.

    Proves to me that the RJA doesn't care about the over-crowding and the unsanitary conditions some of the inmates are in, they only care about losing all of the state money.

  • Polly the Pundit

    From what I have read, that private prison in Kentucky has room for every member of there's an idea...

    • Dave, just Dave.

      ... or President Obama's ego.

      Hmmm, decisions, decisions.