CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Problems within the state regional jail system need to be a top priority for lawmakers when they meet in the upcoming regular legislative session, said Military Affairs and Public Safety Secretary Jeff Sandy.
“It is very clear we have a crisis,” Sandy said on this week’s MetroNews “Talkline.”
Sandy said he’s already met with state legislators about the regional jail employee shortage. He said he also met with the Governor’s Office to discuss a plan for employee pay raises.
“It has been very positive. I have had meetings with Speaker of the House (Tim) Armstead, Delegate (John) Shott and others,” Sandy said. “We have been working on this issue basically since January 16.”
Lawmakers discussed the pay increases Sunday during an Interim Legislative Oversight Committee on Regional Jail and Correctional Facility Authority meeting.
The annual minimum salary for a regional jail worker is around $22,000. With that pay, employees are also having to work up to 16 hour shifts because there are not enough people on their staff.
“We do not have enough people,” Sandy said. “Last year, for every one individual, we hired two people.”
Three jail employees were arrested last week in connection with the October escape of South Central Regional Jail inmate Todd Boyes. Boyes was caught in Texas trying to cross the Rio Grande into Mexico after his espace. Authorities charged Allison Bryant, Pamela McNeely and Jordan Toler on Friday with a misdemeanor each of permitting escape.
Sandy said all correctional officers should be held responsible for their actions no matter what their current financial situation is.
“No matter what pay you are receiving, you have a job to do. You have a job that you’ve been trained to do and it is important that you do that job to the best of your ability — and it is apparent that was not done,” he said.
Sandy said he hopes the upcoming legislation session will be a turning point for the regional jail system.
“It is so important that no matter what your party affiliation is, no matter what your opinion is of corrections is, we need to come together and resolve this issue,” he said.
The 2018 Regular Legislative Session starts Jan. 10.