CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The Department of Corrections and the Regional Jail Authority are aiming to reduce inmate numbers under new legislation.
Regional Jail Authority Director Joe DeLong calls the most recent legislation, SB457, another in a series of steps that is starting to ease overcrowding in regional jails and state prisons.
The legislation authorized the Department of Corrections to send counselors into the regional jails and offer courses to state inmates awaiting transfer to the prison system. Often the courses are required for inmates to be eligible for parole.
DeLong said the aim is getting “these inmates in front of the parole board and not have their parole hearings continued over and over again because those criteria are not met. Getting them in front of the parole board quicker is hopefully going to get a lot of people out of the system quicker and reduce over-population issues.”
State lawmakers provided additional funding for the program to the Division of Corrections in the new budget passed last week.
DeLong said already there is bed space available in the regional jails. The hiring of additional jail guards has actually been a costs savings to the system. The opening of the Salem Industrial Home for Youth as a minimum security lockup also helped with crowding in the prisons and the regional jails.
DeLong said improvements to the sewage treatment system at the Lakin Women’s Prison also enabled it to add inmates and become closer to its capacity, freeing up space in the regional jails.
Prior to the legislation however, state prison inmates housed in the regional jails didn’t have the course offerings they would get in prison.
“Instead of just doing cognitive behavior programming, the Division of Corrections will come into the jails and offer the programming inmates housed there need for parole eligibility,” said DeLong.
The Department of Corrections will provide the instructors. DeLong said the Regional Jail Authority will provide a classroom and scheduling that makes the target inmates easily accessible to the counselors when they visit jails.
The state Division of Corrections has considered sending some of inmates to an out-of-state prison to bridge the gap of missing programs.