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Regional jail sees savings from staffing surge

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CHARLESTON, WV -

The addition of 14 new officers at one regional jail has actually created significant savings.

Lawmakers learned that fact from Joe DeLong, executive director of the West Virginia Regional Jail and Correctional Facility Authority, during a monthly interim committee meeting July 22.

DeLong answered several questions from lawmakers, including one from Delegate David Perry, D-Fayette, who asked him the status of a study of the jails' scheduling programs conducted by West Virginia University more than a year ago.

DeLong said the study included an analysis of appropriate staffing for each of the state's 10 regional jails. That analysis was shared with several groups, including the County Commissioners Association of West Virginia, whose members supported the idea, which called for adding correctional officers to reduce costs.

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin heard the proposal and supported it as well, DeLong said, and appropriated the funds for the suggested number of officers at South Central Regional Jail to treat it as a pilot.

"We hired the new officers, trained the new officers, got them on the schedule June 1, and in one month, with 14 new employees to South Central Regional Jail, after paying for their salaries and benefits, with implementing the new schedule from the WVU study, we've saved $18,000 in personnel costs," DeLong said.

He projected those numbers forward, telling lawmakers that the facility would save $200,000 throughout the course of a year, and if the new staffing system was fully implemented throughout the state, it could create a $1.5 million to $2 million reduction in annual personnel costs.

DeLong said each jail has a different analysis, so while the plan would call for additional officers at each facility, he was unsure exactly how many.

DeLong also told lawmakers he would arrange for the WVRJA chief financial officer to attend next month's interim committee meeting to answer budget questions.

Director of Juvenile Services Stephanie Bond also addressed lawmakers, answering questions about the Harriet B. Jones Treatment Center, which a judge ordered closed earlier this month because of concerns about conditions there. The facility is in Harrison County, on the same campus as the former high-security Industrial Home for Youth in Salem, which was closed July 1 because of its conditions.

The Harriet B. Jones Center currently houses 21 sex offenders and seven juveniles with mental and behavioral health issues.

Bond said the facility was short-staffed and officials had been "diligently looking" for a place to move it to since the end of February. Bond said the judge gave the deadline of Sept. 30 for it to be moved.

"We're currently still there, still in the process of evaluating our current facilities and determining the best place for all the offenders," she said.

Bond said offenders older than 18 who commit an offense are taken to a regional jail, and she does not think they should be taken back to a juvenile facility at the completion of their sentences. But, she said, there are several offenders who have turned older than 18 while in the facility, who do "exceptionally well" in the programs.

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