‘Momentum’ within the Department of Corrections, ‘justice reinvestment’ discussed during meeting of the Jails Committee

By Matthew Young, RealWV

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – “Having momentum” is how Patrick Mirandy, West Virginia Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation chief of staff, described the current state of the agency while appearing before the Oversight Committee on Regional Jail and Correctional Facility Authority on Monday. 

“You’ll see that we’re keeping our foot on the gas,” Mirandy saud. “I want to talk about recruiting. That seems to be brought up every time we come here. Our recruiting has been nothing short of miraculous over the past few months.”

According to Mirandy, 291 new correctional officers, and 49 non-uniform personnel  have been hired statewide since Jan. 1 of this year. A total of 162 individuals have completed the corrections academy within that same time period.

“Some of these successes are obviously because of the money,” Mirandy explained. “But some of them are [because] we’re building a culture. They also like the fact that we’re creating a new brand. We’re no longer the DOC, or the DJS – we’re the DCR, and we’ve taken that to the next level. We try not to even discuss our legacy agencies because we’re the DCR.”

After Mirandy had finished with his remarks, Del. Joey Garcia, D-Marion, inquired about salaries in the high-vacancy facilities, saying, “Last year we provided more money in the budget for corrections officer increases.”

“That change was made through the DOP (Division of Personnel), it wasn’t actually legislation that we did,” Garcia noted. “But you all were able to work with them to raise certain salaries. Part of that was in places that had high vacancy rates, there was a higher salary than other locations.”

“Has that changed since you’ve been able to fill certain positions in certain facilities, has that compensation number gone down?” Garcia asked.

“We haven’t changed any of the salaries that came out for those specific institutions,” Mirandy replied. “I can tell you that the extra $5,000 that was given to the critically vacant facilities has made a huge difference.”

Also appearing before the committee Monday was Senior Advisor Carl Reynolds, with the Council of State Governments Justice Center. Reynolds was on hand to provide an overview of the Justice Reinvestment Initiative.

“What I’d like to do today is very briefly tell you about justice reinvestment, and what that means,” Reynolds began. “It’s essentially an intensive technical assistance project that’s paid for mostly by the federal government – by the Bureau of Justice Assistance.”

“What we do is we get our hands on case-level data from your system – from corrections, from courts, from state police – and we do a lot of data analysis,” Reynolds continued. “All of that comes together in a set of policy options that we will provide.”

“What I’ve seen in the 10 years that I’ve been doing this is that seeing that kind of data analysis and understanding what’s happening in your system, often leads to some consensus,” Reynolds added, “Some Recognition that maybe here’s something in our system that’s not working very well.”

According to Reynolds, “bottlenecks” within the justice system often require both legislative rule changes, and reallocation of resources. 

“The phrase ‘justice reinvestment’ refers to really taking a hard look at how many people you have locked up, which is a very expensive thing to do, and whether that’s always making a lot of sense,” Reynolds noted.

At the conclusion of Reynold’s overview, Del. Bryan Ward, R-Hardy, asked, “Do most states already have the foundation with committees that oversee corrections and regional jails?”

Ward further noted that “rehabilitation is the part that we probably don’t do the best job of.”

“It depends,” Reynolds replied. “I think West Virginia is the only state that has regional jails. There are six states that have unified systems where a jail is run by the same agency, […] but they’re mostly smaller places.”

“Sometimes it’s an existing entity – sentencing committee, or an existing task force that’s underway,” Reynolds added. “Sometimes it’s something new that’s created either by a legislative resolution, or a governor’s executive order that spells out who will be on the group and what the goals are.”

The Oversight Committee on Regional Jails and Correctional Facility Accountability will meet again during next month’s Interim Legislative Session, scheduled for May 19 through 21. RealWV will provide updates from the committee as additional information becomes available. 

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