Regional Jail Costs Discussed

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Keeping regional jail costs down.

That's been a major task for both West Virginia counties and state corrections officials.

From reducing overtime to better supervision of purchases, Regional Jail Authority Executive Director Joe DeLong says the state's costs have slowly declined in the past couple of years.

But while the costs of housing Wood County prisoners also is going down, that's still a major part of the county's tight budget.

Still, in spite of the costs, a former Pleasants County sheriff says the regional jail system has been a help to smaller counties, particularly those where local jails were aging.

"To me, the regional jail has been a blessing for the smaller counties," says Larry Barnhart, now a Pleasants County commissioner. "Even though it's a higher cost, the liability has moved away from us. For every county, a big part of every budget is the jail cost."

DeLong predicts the prison population will decline-although corrections officers during a tour of the regional jail said the jail population is usually above the 400 it was built to hold.

And if that population does fall, that could also mean less revenue for the jail system, and more challenges to the regional jail authority to keep costs down.

Thursday's meeting with local government leaders is one of several DeLong and the authority plan to hold across the state-all of them scheduled to take place at the state's regional jails.