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Reduction In Regional Jail Rates Approved


Updated: 7/19/2013 6:10 P.M.

The head of West Virginia's Regional Jail Authority says a bill passed by the legislature earlier this year is a step toward dealing not only with overcrowding in prisons, but the problems counties face with regional jail costs. Joe DeLong says it also addresses the drug problems some of those prisoners.

"In many cases, the only thing that's going to happen to them in jail, is that they're going to be trained to become a better criminal," DeLong told county officials Friday. "If you really want to get away from that, that's something that has to be solved."

Wood County's drug court has made progress in getting those individuals to treatment. But, partially on the same issue, a circuit judge says it has to be determined who doesn't need to be held long term, so the county won't have to pay to keep them in jail.

"I think you need to have someone to identify those who are in jail," says Circuit Judge Jeff Reed, "and haven't been able to post bond, and you have to categorize them."

Prosecutor Jason Wharton says progress is being made in handling cases more quickly, to move offenders on in-or, in some cases, out of-the regional system.

" We've been able to get cases pled, we've been able to get cases indicted quicker, and we've been able to get people who do not pose a risk to society released in a more timely manner."

Judge Reed cautions not all cases work out that way. but everyone agreed getting people though the legal system more efficiently, might mean they won't cost the county as much in jail fees.

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Updated 10/25/2012 7:00 P.M.

It doesn't sound like much, but it's a small reduction that will save West Virginia counties hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The West Virginia Regional Jail Board Thursday approved a 55-cent reduction in the rate charged to counties for housing a prisoner in the state's regional jails.

The rate drops from $48.80 a prisoner to $48.25.

Wood County Sheriff Jeff Sandy, the board's chairman, says it will save the state's 55 counties $516,000 a year.

For years, the state's counties, including Wood County, have been concerned about the escalating costs of housing prisoners in the regional jail.

Just this past Monday, Wood County officials discussed ways of reducing those costs.

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Updated: 10/22/2012 5:40 P.M.

It could save Wood County money.

But the commission was told Monday that one way of reducing transportation costs to the regional jail isn't being utilized enough.

The pre-trial release program was authorized earlier this year, to divert non-violent and non-risk offenders from the regional jail who couldn't post bond.

But its director says that, so far, no one has been admitted into the program.

"Most of the people we could have brought into the program could have come the first day," said Suzette Hall, Pre-Trial coordinator for the Mid-Ohio Valley Day Report Center. "But I cannot get to them, and I don't know what else to do. I have to have the defense attorney's permission to do an assessment."

The county is looking for ways to reduce its regional jail bill, which is increasing, even though the number of people being sent to the jail is decreasing.

Law enforcement officials said, however, that housing prisoners in Doddridge County still costs less than if they were held here.

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Updated: 10/15/2012 6:10 P.M.

Since it opened more than a decade ago...the cost to hold prisoners in the North Central Regional Jail has been steadily increasing.

Members of the Wood County Commission discussed the problem Monday with regional jail administrators in Doddridge County.

Commission President Blair Couch says the county's bill for housing prisoners has risen 26% in the past three years.

That's even taking into consideration arrests in the county have declined during that period, and the costs were going up before that.

Couch says a regional jail representative will be in Parkersburg next Monday to further discuss the problem with commissioners.

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The bills for transporting and housing prisoners in the regional jail system isn't a new problem. We first covered it more than five years ago. but the figures County Confinement Director Steve stephens gave the county commission continue to be eye-openers.

" I started in April of 2010, and, as I recall then, the regional jail bill was $142,000. For June, it was $187,000."

Nor are the awnsers easy to come by. Home confinement and the day report centers also have been successful options. But the problem isn't really that there are more prisoners, but the types of cases they're incarcerated for.

"You're having more burglaries, more drug trafficking," Magistrate Donna Jackson told the commission Thursday. "And I think when you're dealing with those, it takes more time. And you want to make sure before you ever let them out."

"The pill epidemic is crazy as far as drug abuse," Stephens added. "You've got economics, you've got the weather, especially right now."

Recently, prisoners housed in the regional jail haven't just been people awaiting grand jury indictments or trials. Some were also federal prisoners.

"The rest were sex offenders, drug dealers or manufacturers or people who had committed robbery," said Jodie Boylen, Assistant Wood County Prosecutor.

Commissioner Wayne Dunn suggested a long-term solution to the prisoner problem might come in finding solutions for homelessness, and treatment of people with mental illnesses.


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