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.