CHARLESTON, W.Va. — More than 120 individuals from the West Virginia National Guard, the state Division of Homeland Security and other agencies will soon begin working in correctional facilities across the state as the state Legislature considers a bill to increase pay for corrections officers.

Gov. Jim Justice declared a state of emergency on Dec. 22 because of a shortage of corrections officers in the state, which may have contributed to security problems at facilities. This includes the South Central Regional Jail, where an inmate escaped in early November.

According to Division of Corrections Commissioner Betsy Jividen, the individuals will focus on perimeter patrols and other tasks supervisors see as appropriate.

“We would not be able to keep going with the assistance of these guys,” she said on MetroNews “Talkline” last week.

Military Affairs and Public Safety Secretary Jeff Sandy called this a temporary fix as lawmakers consider providing officers with higher wages. Senate Bill 262 would provide officers will a $6,000 raise over a three years beginning this July.

“Even with that pay increase, I think it’s important for the public to know that that will take us from 49th to maybe up to around 40th in the nation in corrections officer pay,” Sandy said.

The starting pay for officers currently is $24,664 due to an increase the West Virginia State Personnel Board passed in July.

“I think you have to credit the men and women that are serving in these positions now,” Jividen said. “We have to remember these people are putting their lives on the line for the rest of us every day, and they are giving their all to keep us safe.”

The Senate Government Organization Committee is currently considering the bill. It is a separate measure from the legislation affecting pay for teachers and other public employees.

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