CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A U.S. Naval base scheduled for closure next year in West Virginia could end up being the home of a new state prison. State Corrections Commissioner Jim Rubenstein gave a group of state lawmakers information Monday about the Sugar Grove base in Pendleton County.
“It could easily support a 500-bed correctional facility,” Rubenstein said. “It’s very attractive to our Correctional Industries based on some of the buildings and the actual location.”
The base closure date is currently set for Sept. 2015. U.S. senators Jay Rockefeller and Joe Manchin have been working with federal and state officials on a possible transfer of the property to the state. Commissioner Rubenstein said it’s a 122-acre facility with 105 buildings including residential housing that could be occupied by prison workers.
“Just based on the rural nature and some of our employees who would be very interested in that type of setting—we could see some folks wanting to transfer as well and to be able to have appropriate housing,” Rubenstein told lawmakers.
Preliminary plans are to have a medium to low-medium security prison at the site. Rubenstetin said the federal government wants to see the state’s plan by early next year. His agency will soon submit its plan to the governor’s office for review.
“We’re putting together what we feel will be a good plan. To have a base like this being offered—we see this as a tremendous opportunity,” according to Rubenstein.
The Sugar Grove base has served as the Navy Information Operations Command base. It has about 300 employees. Rubenstein said many of those workers have skill-sets that could be useful in the Division of Corrections.
“We see it from a division perspective as the ability of retaining individuals, not only for the needs of that facility, but for the division as a whole,” Rubenstein said.
There was serious discussion just last year about placing some state inmates in a Kentucky private prison because of overcrowding in West Virginia but Rubenstein said that’s on the back burner now with the Sugar Grove opportunity and other projects that will create more prison beds in Parkersburg, St. Marys and Moundsville.