CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A member of the state’s new Juvenile Justice Task Force says she welcomes the opportunity to represent the interests of the juvenile justice system’s corrections officers in the review process.
The task force has held one meeting as part of an effort to review the entire system and recommend changes for the governor and state lawmakers to consider. Workers’ representative Elaine Harris said the input of the workers will be vital in the review.
“They are on the front lines,” she said.
Harris said those juvenile corrections workers have faced additional challenges in the last year with the closing of the Salem facility where most of the juveniles who had committed serious offenses were held.
“It has been challenging for those juveniles that are housed in the other facilities and the workers there,” she said.
Harris said she hopes one recommendation to come out of the process will be pay increases for the workers. She said the workers have to have a special balance to be firm while remembering they are working with kids.
“They are also like the moms and the dads,” she said. “That’s like the most positive forces these kids have seen in their lives.”
Harris held a similar spokesperson role for state prison workers when state leaders considered and eventually approved the Justice Reinvestment Act last year.