CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) — Gov. Jim Justice (R-WV) on Monday signed three bills into law that will give pay raises to current Department of Corrections officers and increase the starting pay for new hires.

The West Virginia Legislature passed the bills – SB 1003, SB 1004 and SB 1005 – during August 2023’s special session. The special session was used to tackle hot-button issues in West Virginia, including a lack of corrections workers and the car tax rebate.

One of the biggest problems with keeping people in corrections positions was low pay. Neighboring states and the federal government pay their corrections officers far more than West Virginia. So many from the Mountain State will leave for higher salaries elsewhere.

The bills provide $25 million to increase starting pay for new hires, with the hope of bringing in people to fill 700 vacant corrections worker positions in West Virginia, giving raises to current staff, and giving a bonus for non-uniformed staff employed by the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, according to a press release from the governor’s office. First-year correctional officers’ salaries will go from $35,514 to $40,000. Correctional officers will see another raise at the end of their second year, bringing their salary to $48,000.

“This legislation is a monumental step toward reducing the vacancies throughout our system so we can continue to enhance public safety across West Virginia,” William Marshall, Commissioner of the West Virginia Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation, said.

Other Department of Corrections-related bills include one to prohibit the use of taxpayer dollars for “certain procedures or benefits not medically necessary for persons in the custody of DCR,” the passage of a bill that will give free temporary IDs to people leaving the corrections system and another one to allow the DCR’s special revenue fund to be used for deferred maintenance projects.