CHARLESTON, W.Va. — State Corrections Commissioner Jim Rubenstein has joined those who support legislation which would offer state inmates in regional jails the same classes they’d receive in the state prison system.
Lawmakers are considering the bill which has cleared the Senate and the House Judiciary Committee. The measure is now pending before the House Finance Committee. The idea would be an alternative option to another idea that some state inmates could be relocated from the regional jails to an out-of-state prison to receive the classes.
Rubenstein said the investment in the program named in the bill would be a cost savings in the long run since those state inmates in regional jail custody would more quickly qualify for parole.
“If we can offer and get folks prepared for that first hearing before the parole board to have the programming they need,” he said. “If they get paroled it has the potential to be some tremendous savings.”
The cost of the program is projected at $551,000 for the first year and $525,000 each year afterward. Rubenstein believes it will be money well spent when compared to the costs of keeping an inmate locked up because he didn’t get the required classes to qualify for parole while sitting in the regional jail.
The program is being presented as an alternative to shipping regional jail inmates to out of state prisons, but Rubenstein said the out-of-state plan remains a viable option if this doesn’t work out.
Lawmakers have less than a week to pass the bill. The regular session ends Saturday night, March 8.