UPDATE: West Virginia declares state of emergency over jail staffing

Published: Dec. 29, 2017 at 4:37 PM EST
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UPDATE: 12/30/17 7:30 P.M.

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice has declared a state of emergency over short-staffing at state jails.

The executive order authorizes the secretary of Military Affairs and Public Safety to use the West Virginia National Guard to help staff juvenile and adult lockups until legislative and operational solutions can be developed and implemented.

Justice's order says excessive amounts of overtime aren't conducive to safe working practices and environments.

Justice issued a second order allowing correctional employees to carry over into 2018 annual leave that they would otherwise lose. That's because working overtime prevented them from taking the time off.

A Legislative Oversight Committee report from October showed the state's 10 regional jails all have more inmates than they were designed to hold and have more than 300 staffing vacancies combined.

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ORIGINAL STORY: 12/29/17 4:59 PM

Gov. Jim Justice says staffing at West Virginia's prisons and regional jails is in a "crisis" situation.

The News Center has learned he has issued an executive order, temporarily addressing that problem.

The executive order was obtained by the News Center, as well as found on the secretary of state's website.

It was issued December 22, and states:

"The Secretary of Military Affairs and Public Safety is hereby empowered to oversee the use of all of his divisions, to include the West Virginia National Guard," the order states, "in order to maximize the staffing at this State's adult and juvenile detention and correctional facilities, until legislative and operational remedies can be developed and implemented."

This, to address a problem that's been discussed for some time: a shortage of correctional officers in the state's prisons and regional jails.

A local lawmaker says the main issue is the hourly pay for corrections employees, something he believes will have to be addressed in the 2018 legislative session, beginning in early January.

"We can't keep people in those positions at $11 an hour," says Del. John Kelly (R-Wood County). "And when we do hire those people, we have to send them through a training process, and we have to pay for that training. And it's just not cost-effective for the state to continue to do that."

Kelly is not surprised by the governor's executive order. He says he knows of one correctional officer, who abruptly resigned to take a job in the oil and gas drilling business.

Meanwhile, the governor Friday issued a separate executive order, allowing corrections employees to carry all their unused annual leave from this year into 2018.

That unused leave is the result of extra work those employees have done, due to the staffing issues.