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State inmates out-of-state transfer subject of Nov. bid opening

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The state Division of Corrections is set to open bids Nov. 5 on a plan that could move as many as 400 state prison inmates to private prisons outside of West Virginia.

State Corrections Commissioner Jim Rubenstein told a group of state lawmakers Monday 2 for-profit companies recently attended a pre-bid conference.

The state inmates are currently being held in regional jails across West Virginia because of the overcrowding situation in state prisons. Rubenstein said the regional jails don’t offer the rehabilitation programs the inmates need to be able to qualify for parole during their first appearance before the parole board. He told lawmakers the inmates could get those programs quickly in a private out-of-state prison.

“My task at hand is to make sure they become engaged in their individualized rehabilitation plan immediately,” Rubenstein said.

State inmates would have to volunteer for the transfer. Rubenstein said his legal team has researched the state constitution’s banishment clause and believe it can be done.

There are currently more than 1,500 state inmates in regional jails. Rubenstein hopes the out-of-state transfer program along with additional beds added recently at the Salem and St. Marys prisons and soon at Lakin prison will cut that number by more than half.

Rubenstein said he doesn’t see the out-of-state program as something that will be used for years and years.

“It is viewed as a temporary measure to get control of the population,” he said.

There are currently just under 6,900 inmates in West Virginia state prisons.

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