POINT PLEASANT — The cost to house inmates at regional jails in West Virginia will remain unchanged for the fiscal year starting July 1, 2014.
This means it won’t cost any more, though certainly not any less, than it currently does to house an inmate which is $48.25 per day. The rate was voted upon by the Regional Jail Authority Board in October and was discussed at the most recent Mason County Commission meeting.
County Administrator John Gerlach stated the county’s regional jail bill is predicted to be around $700,000 for the fiscal year. It’s hoped the new drug court established in Mason County will help offset some of these costs and in fact the drug court program was one reason why the Regional Jail Authority Board voted to keep the housing rate unchanged.
In a letter addressed to Commission President Rick Handley, the Board said its “fiscally conservative decision” was based upon the knowledge of “significant reductions in our inmate population over the next 12 months.” These reductions are based upon S.B. 371 (Justice Reinvestment) to reduce prison and jail overcrowding by creating a new sentencing option which pairs “intensive supervision” with “effective community based drug rehabilitation treatment.” The bill also requires all judicial circuits to participate in drug courts by July 1, 2016. Again, Mason County is ahead of the curve, having started its drug court last month and being one of only around 10 counties to participate in the program out of 55 counties in West Virginia, so far. The funding for drug court comes from the state with the county providing only the space for court to convene and the furniture. Currently, Mason County Drug Court convenes on the first floor of the courthouse.
Also the Board cited the transfer of 600 Division of Corrections inmates to refurbished and expanded prison facilities which is a loss of approximately $11 million in annual revenue.
The Board also said it is being “proactive” to mitigate the financial impact of the inmate population reductions through improvements in employee scheduling, information technology and facility security, as well as revenue enhancements for inmate ancillary services and federal inmate per diem rates.