CHARLESTON, W.Va.– What has been called a “sweeping modernization” of corrections in West Virginia has led to the consolidation of the state’s prison, regional jail and juvenile justice systems.
A ribbon cutting ceremony took place Monday at the new Division of Administrative Services offices in Charleston.
Sunday, House Bill 4338 went into law and therefore created two new Divisions for the Mountain State’s correctional services– the Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation and the Division of Administrative Services.
The Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation replaced the Division of Corrections, Regional Jail and Correctional Facility Authority and the Division of Juvenile Services. The new consolidated division includes separate bureaus of Prisons and Jails, Community Corrections and Juvenile Services.
Administrative Services, led by Director Denny Rhodes, handles human resources, payroll, recruiting, contracts and procurement and vehicle and property management.
Jeff Sandy, Military Affairs and Public Safety secretary, said the system in place prior to the enactment of House Bill 4338 had multiple people doing the same jobs in different divisions.
“It was not efficient at all, and this bill will allow us to enjoy those efficiencies,” he said.
The bill was passed on Mar. 10 of this year and saw bipartisan support in both the House and Senate. Sandy said the government was a big help in making this possible.
“The governor’s office was so tremendous to work for,” he said. “The Speaker of the House Armstead, the President of the Senate Carmichael, the unions, everyone came together for the common good of our state.”
Delegate Rodney Miller (D – Boone, 23) said many people, including legislators, did not really understand what exactly goes on in corrections facilities.
“Having a career in law enforcement, I actually ran our jail in Boone County when I was with the Sherriff’s Office, you kind of get an idea of what corrections officers and the staffs do day in and out day, and the general public really don’t have the opportunity to see that to see the danger and the effort that’s put in,” he said.
Miller was a sponsor of the House Bill 4338 along with 10 other house members from around the state.
Delegate Jeff Eldridge (I – Lincoln, 22) said what got him to sponsor the bill was the provisions it makes for kids in juvenile correction centers.
“I had issues more so with the juveniles; the 19, 20 and 21-year-olds in with our 15 and 16-year-olds,” he said. “Through this legislation, it will help separate them once they assault the younger
juveniles or staff.”
He also said that it will save his district money.
“Our counties are being broke by our jail bills, and through this legislation it will save not only the state but my four counties a lot of money– probably close to a million,” he said.
Sandy said that this consolidation is going to serve as an example.
“This unit, in my opinion, will be a model for the rest of the state government,” he added.
Because of this unification, correctional facilities employees are going to be getting paid more. Sandy hopes that this leads to more people pursuing correction not just for jobs but for careers.
He even added that as of approval on June 20, career paths are in place for employees to see where they can go working in correctional facilities.
“This is so important that we become efficient here so we can utilize the savings and invest it back into our people,” he said.
Sandy noted that no jobs were lost in this merger.
As for the public, both Miller and Eldridge said that constituents seem pleased with the changes.
“I think they’ve embraced it. I think they understand the importance of everything,” Miller said. “It’s common in our communities that when bad guys commit crimes they expect them to be locked up.”
“We are trying to take care of our younger kids, and I think that we are being a good steward of their tax dollars,” Eldridge said. “We are saving the state millions of dollars by doing this, and I think they appreciate that.”
By West Virginia Code, House Bill 4338 gives the new divisions one year to finish consolidations and three years to bring all the other DMAPS agencies.
Story by Jordyn Johnson