PARKERSBURG, W.Va.-(WTAP) Update: 2/12/2018 5:05 P.M.
Delegate John Kelly (R-Wood County) had this to say about the passage of the House bill granting correctional employee pay raises:
"Right now, a corrections officers makes an average of $10.58 an hour. That's not very much pay to give somebody for putting their life on the line every day for going into those types of facilities."
A bill to give a pay raise to correctional officers in West Virginia is headed to the state Senate.
On Monday, the House passed House Bill 4142 with a 99-0 vote. The bill gives a salary increase for state employees in the Division of Corrections, Division of Juvenile Services, and Regional Jail Authority.
If the bill is approved, applicable employees would be given an increase in annual pay of $2,000 starting July 1, 2018. Additional raises of $2,000 each would be given again in July 2019 and July 2020.
According to text in the bill, funding for the new pay rates for employees of the Division of Corrections and Division of Juvenile Services shall be provided from the general revenue fund.
The salary adjustment for the Regional Jail Authority will come from the special revenue fund.
The bill was originally introduced in the House by Speaker Tim Armstead and Delegate Tim Miley.
Delegate Tom Fast from Fayette County spoke before the vote Monday. He says boosting the salary will allow the state to retain correctional officers and reduce the overtime costs that the state has now.
UPDATE: 2/8/2018 4:35 P.M.
The Wood County Commission Thursday approved a resolution supporting consolidation of West Virginia's correctional divisions.
Part of that plan allows prisoners to be held at the Parkersburg Correctional Center-the former Holiday Inn-off U.S. Route 50, before being transferred to the regional jail.
Responding to a concern from Sheriff Steve Stephens, commissioners said their understanding is that would still allow prisoners to post bond within hours of their arrest, as they have during their stay at the Wood County Holding Center.
"If someone were arraigned in front of the magistrate, it might take them a couple of hours to get bond, or get hold of their loved ones to bond them out," Sheriff Stephens explained. "Then we would hold them at the holding center, then they would be able to post bond and be released."
The sheriff said that quick bonding process saved the county $63,000 in 2017.
He also told the commission Thursday the county's regional jail bill in January was $181,000, well below the monthly average of recent years.
West Virginia Secretary of Military Affairs and Public Safety Jeff Sandy told the Wood County Commission Monday of plans to bring the Division of Juvenile Services and the Regional Jail Authority under the control of the Division of Corrections.
He added there is not a proposal to increase the money per prisoner charged counties to house prisoners in the regional jail system.
While teachers have vocally been seeking higher pay, state leaders have been seeking higher pay for corrections officers.
"The plan is to give them $2,000 for the next three years, Sandy said after Monday's meeting. "That would have to come from the counties; which would be devastating to the counties, and we don't want to do that."
The proposal is for the federal government to pay more for housing itse prisoners in the regional jail system.
Corrections officials who joined Sandy for Monday's meeting said having fewer corrections officers means less of an opportunity to help inmates-both youth and adults-avoid a life of crime.
"We don't have the ability to do our education, our vocation, our recreation," said William Marshall, Director, Division of Juvenile Services. They have to stay locked in, because we don't have enough officers to cover the floor."
"Not only do they come out with the chance to become productive citizens, but we're all safer," noted Betsy Jividen, just appointed commissioner, West Virginia Division of Corrections because when they come out, they're not committing crimes."
A consolidation of departments is being proposed, with a goal of saving West Virginia money. There's also a move to reduce prisoners in the holding center, by instead holding them at the Parkersburg Correctional Center off U.S. Route 50.
That way, says Secretary Sandy, they could be treated as well as held.
"If the individual is addicted to a whole litany of drugs, we would take them to our facility which best treats the particular drug addiction they are on."
Two bills-one in the House of Delegates, the other in the Senate-seek the corrections consolidation.