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Staffing continues to pose major challenge in West Virginia corrections

Following an emergency declaration for West Virginia’s prisons and jails, staffing continues to be a challenge.

Sen. Charles Clements, R-Wetzel, asked about the situation Tuesday during legislative interim meetings. “How’s the staffing going at these jails?” Clements asked.

The most recent report showed 1,010 vacancies out of 3,800 total positions, responded Brad Douglas, the acting commissioner of the West Virginia Division of Corrections.

“So, total overall vacancy rate currently is 26%. Amongst officers, it’s 32%, which is high. At some select jails, it’s as high as 75% officer vacancies,” Douglas said.

Clements followed up by asking about the assignment of National Guard personnel to help with the corrections system. On Aug. 11, Gov. Jim Justice issued the state of emergency authorizing the deployment of Guard members for up to a year to help with the jails.

“How much longer are we going to be able to keep these people?” Clements asked during a Tuesday meeting of the Legislative Oversight Committee on Regional Jail and Correctional Facility Authority.

Douglas responded, “That’s a good question. So we’re tracking that money very closely because that is an expensive process. We reimburse the National Guard for their salaries. So I don’t know the answer to your question, but not forever.”

Delegate David Kelly, R-Tyler, asked about the per diem rate for inmates in the corrections system. Douglas said there’s enough flexibility in revenue sources to allow some cross-staffing between prisons and jails.

“We are supplementing jail staff with prison staff to get through a jail having 75% vacancy rates, etc.,” Douglas said.