Randy Yohe Published

Hundreds Of W.Va. Corrections Hires Called ‘Milestone’

A female guard sits in a jail cage, high above inmate cells.
The National Guard support to corrections has been cut by more than half, from 413 to 181 members.
West Virginia National Guard

The West Virginia Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation (WVDCR) calls hiring more than 300 new employees over the past 100 days a milestone. Still in a state of emergency since August 2022, a shortage of more than 1,000 front line jail and prison guards just a year ago, is now down to about 500. 

When Gov. Jim Justice declared that emergency status, he called for National Guard personnel to alleviate shortages at adult and juvenile correctional and detention facilities. The National Guard support has been cut by more than half, from 413 to 181 members.

“Reducing the need of the National Guard to fill public safety roles in our West Virginia facilities is a big deal,” Justice said in a press release. “It shows that we’re making strides in ensuring that our communities are safe and well-protected without having to rely on temporary measures.” 

Justice and Corrections Commissioner William Marshall have a target of completely removing National Guard presence from all facilities by late summer 2024 

The department credits revamped recruiting efforts and increased pay scales for the staffing bolster. 

Chairman of the House Jails and Prisons Committee, Del. David Kelly, R-Tyler, was reluctant to talk about ongoing corrections investigations into allegations of inhumane treatment, sub-par facilities and inmate fatalities.    He does credit an improved corrections culture to new techniques in employee training and education.

“Commissioner Marshall is doing a great job with training and education in those areas,” Kelly said. “It’s kind of a new approach to the training that they’re receiving now.” 

Kelly said he will continue to fight for the non-uniformed personnel pay raise legislation that passed the House but stalled in the Senate during the regular session.     

“They stepped up during the state of emergency, which is still in effect, to do some hard work and some heavy lifting during the most critical times of our shortage,” Kelly said. ”We we need to continue to remember that they stepped up.”

The WVDCR oversees West Virginia’s 11 prisons, 10 regional jails, 10 juvenile centers, 13 parole services offices, 22 youth reporting centers and three work-release sites.