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Gov. Jim Justice has declared a State of Emergency in the state’s jails to address a staffing shortage.
West Virginia National Guard members are being sent to alleviate staffing shortages at adult and juvenile correctional and detention facilities across the state.
During Thursday’s COVID-19 press briefing, Justice said part of the problem was caused by legislative inaction on correctional officer pay.
“During the last legislative period we had a bipartisan group that we tried to get through to do a regional pay differential to folks in certain areas, like the Eastern Panhandle where the shortages are off the chart – 60 percent,” Justice said. “We just haven’t been able to compete and attract folks and everything into these positions.”
Vacancies, particularly in the Eastern Panhandle, have required the Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation to use non-uniformed staff and officers from other regions to staff facilities.
Later in the press conference, Justice said he didn’t have an exact figure of how many National Guard members would be needed to fill the staffing gaps. He also acknowledged the impact of COVID-19 on the correctional system, but redoubled the focus on officer compensation.
“The bottom line is we got to be able to compete, and we got to be able to attract people to us,” Justice said. “We’ve got to be able to attract and reward these people in a way that we absolutely keep the proper staffing because that’s another one of our big obligations.”