West Virginia has declared a state of emergency but not because of a weather disaster. Governor Jim Justice is pleading for more officers to work in the jails because they are understaffed. This order allows other departments to release workers so that they can work in juvenile detention centers and jails until more help is available. Overtime isn’t really an option because workers aren’t able to offer the same level of service after being on the job for several hours.
Annual leave was ordered to be carried into 2018 that would normally go away at the end of the year. Overtime hours kept many officers from taking time off through the year, which meant that they had time built up for annual leave but couldn’t take it before December 31. Most of the jails in the state have more inmates than the buildings can safely hold. The jails need about 300 more people in order to safely operate. More corrections officers are needed as well as more general staff to help operate the jails.
Before the addition of some of the military officers and other departmental officers for the jails, Governor Justice claimed that there was a crisis in the state pertaining to the jail system. The inmates were not being monitored like they needed to be, leading to safety issues across the state. This isn’t a problem that is new. There has been a shortage of workers for months, but with more people being sentenced to time in jail, there aren’t enough officers and staff to work. Governor Justice is hoping that the release of more workers will help to control the situation until more corrections officers can be hired. One of the issues that will be addressed at future government meetings is the pay rate of the officers because it’s simply too high for the state to pay.