Should the Division of Corrections Become a Separate State Department?

Feb 14, 2014

The Division of Corrections was honored in the Senate Friday with a resolution declaring February 14, 2014, Corrections day at the legislature.

Commissioner Jim Rubenstein was joined by his Cabinet Secretary Joe Thornton and other members of the Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety to receive the honor.

Senate President Jeff Kessler presents DOC Commissioner Jim Rubenstein with a proclamation declaring Feb. 14, 2014, Division of Corrections Day at the Legislature.
Credit Janet Kunicki / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

“On this day, it is important for this Legislature to remember that the starting annual salary for an entry level correctional professional in West Virginian is $22,584,” said Sen. Bill Laird.

“I think we can all agree that for our correctional officers, little is given to those from whom much is expected in return.”

Laird added he hoped in the near future lawmakers could increase the salary of Corrections employees who were protecting the citizens of the state.

The Division, however, has also been the subject of many bills throughout the session, bills focused on decreasing the number of inmates in West Virginia’s overcrowded prisons and jails.

Senator Don Cookman, a former circuit judge, has backed many of those bills including one introduced Thursday, changing the Division of Corrections to the Department of Corrections and making its commissioner a cabinet level secretary.

The Regional Jail Authority, Division of Justice and Community Service and the Board of Probation and Parole would all fall under the new Department of Corrections, leaving the Division of Juvenile Services under the Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety.

Cookman said this proposal, like others he’s introduced, is about efficiency and saving the state money.

 “We noticed during the interims that there was a big dispute between the regional jails and corrections about having these classes, which I put into Senate Bill 457, in the regional jails,” he said Friday, “and because of that those types of things could be taken care of I think easier if they were all under one umbrella.”

Those are rehabilitative classes inmates taken in order to become eligible for parole.

Offering them in the regional jails that are holding the overflow of correctional inmates, Cookman believes, will help them parole more quickly and cut down on the prison population.