WV Division of Corrections wants to add 350 beds - WOWK 13 Charleston, Huntington WV News, Weather, Sports

WV Division of Corrections wants to add 350 beds among facilities

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The Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety may be walking the tightest budget line in the entire state.
Despite highly publicized and longtime reports of prison crowding, the Division of Corrections was able to trim its budget 7.5 percent, as Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin asked most agencies to do back in August.
Corrections Commissioner Jim Rubenstein presented the DMAPS budget to lawmakers Feb. 21. He said the budget cuts came out of the Central Office account, but the division has priorities for Fiscal Year 2014 that include addressing the rising number of inmates by adding 350 beds to existing facilities throughout the state.
Rubenstein said other priorities include completing renovations to the new corrections center in Charleston by mid-2015. The new facility will include a residential substance abuse treatment unit and house about 130 inmates, Rubenstein said.
The state currently has 4,878 inmates in its various facilities, which include 10 adult male institutions, one adult female institution, one young adult offender institution, two work release study institutions and two work camps. Rubenstein said there are 444 Division of Corrections inmates in two facilities that are under contract and operated by the McDowell County Commission and about 1,865 DOC inmates housed within the West Virginia Regional Jail system.
He told lawmakers the division has 2,063 full-time employees that bring an average cost of $100 million per year in services and benefits.
Despite all the cuts and the belt tightening within the state budget, though, Tomblin has suggested additional funding for the Division of Corrections for Fiscal Year 2014.
Rubenstein said those additional funds would be a $2,192 increase for the public retirement system employer matching benefits and $293,716 due to increases for the public employee retirement system employer matching benefits.
And part of Tomblin's plan to deal with prison crowding comes from the Council of State Governments Justice Reinvestment study recommendations lawmakers heard more about in a separate Feb. 21 presentation.
Tomblin has recommended $6 million in supplemental budget appropriations for the DOC to complete its Charleston correctional center, $900,000 to upgrade radio equipment to meet federal communication standards and $2 million additional funding for operational expenses at various division facilities, Rubenstein explained.
He told lawmakers the crowding issue is truly at crisis level
"If we do nothing, the growth is going to continue," he said. "We have inmates in regional jails who are on mattresses on the floors."
Carl Reynolds with the Justice Center presented the study's results, which Tomblin has indicated he will utilize in his proposed legislation to ease prison crowding. Reynolds said it was his 10th trip to West Virginia, and the Mountain State is the 17th in which the nonprofit council has worked.
Reynolds said the numbers that stood out in West Virginia had to do with substance abuse. He said 22 percent of new commitments in the state are for drug offenses, and 62 percent of probation revocations were because of some sort of substance abuse or addiction.
He said some slight changes will help the state eventually save money.
He said he has proposed "a substantial, but not enormous," investment in substance abuse treatment coupled with a new sentencing option.
He also stressed that effective treatment requires a continuum of care, so while the prison system has a good drug treatment program already, there is no substance abuse treatment for anyone on parole or probation.
Reynolds said he estimated nearly 2,000 people on probation and parole in the state who need substance abuse treatment, which would cost about $6.8 million. He said $5 million "gets us a long way toward that."
Reynolds said part two of his policy recommendations is to improve accountability. He recommended post-release supervision of at least six months along with graduated sanctions. "If you can chip away at those lengths of stay with some other policies, you can pick up a lot of capacity," he said.