West Virginia Jails Are in Crisis – What Should We Do?

Potential officers performing a training course with cones.
Potential West Virginia correctional officers undergo rigorous training.

How bad is the staffing crisis in West Virginia’s jails and prisons?

So bad, Gov. Jim Justice asked the National Guard to help with staffing. And he signed an order allowing corrections employees to keep unused vacation time, because they’ve been forced to work so much overtime.

Even after a $1 an hour increase in September, starting wages for workers are only $24,600. There are more than 500 vacancies in the regional jail system, officials say, and the problem is only getting worse.

Last year, one dangerous man walked out of South Central Regional Jail, but wasn’t even noticed as missing until more than 24 hours later. Three jail employees were charged with the misdemeanor crime of allowing him to escape.

On the Front Porch podcast, we debate how to fix our correctional system, and where the money should come from. On this issue, our progressive and conservative hosts agree: it starts with reducing the number of people in our jails and prisons.

Welcome to “The Front Porch,” where we tackle the tough issues facing Appalachia the same way you talk with your friends on the porch.

Hosts include WVPB Executive Director and recovering reporter Scott Finn and liberal columnist and avid goat herder Rick Wilson, who works for the American Friends Service Committee. Guest host this week is economist Jessi Troyan of the free-market Cardinal Institute.

An edited version of “The Front Porch” airs Fridays at 4:50 p.m. on West Virginia Public Broadcasting’s radio network, and the full version is available at wvpublic.org and as a podcast as well.

Share your opinions with us about these issues, and let us know what you’d like us to discuss in the future. Send a tweet to @radiofinn or @wvpublicnews, or e-mail Scott at sfinn @ wvpublic.org

The Front Porch is underwritten by the Pulitzer Prize-winning Charleston Gazette-Mail. Find the latest news, traffic and weather on its CGM App. Download it in your app store, and check out its website: http://www.wvgazettemail.com/.

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