BARBOURSVILLE — There are currently 43 prisoners from Mason County being housed by the West Virginia Regional Jail and Correction Facility Authority and as such, the county has a vested interest in how the Authority is being operated.
The county pays $48.25 per day for each prisoners housed by the Authority, though it should be noted some of those 43 being housed are convicted felons and technically under the care of the department of corrections with care paid for by the state. Still, the taxpayer bears the burden in some way.
Recently, the Mason County Commission received a letter from Joe DeLong, executive director of the Authority on the challenges he faced when taking over in 2012 and improvements made since then.
When DeLong took over as acting director in February 2012, he said the regional jail authority was facing several challenges, the most notable being: An independent auditing firm had annually carried over three substantial reported audit deficiencies dating back at least four years. The agency’s purchasing card system had very limited controls and accountability for daily procurement. Roughly 25 percent of the personnel services budget was being allocated to cover mandatory overtime. The staff vacancy rate was just under 13 percent. The agency was facing approximately 120 sexual harassment civil suits with no in-house legal representation or risk department. The agency’s budget was out of date and multiple budget line items were showing negative variances in excess of 50 percent. There was no investigative unit to monitor facility related matters. Internal controls of inmate funds were lacking. There was no asset planning and a very fractured maintenance element existed individually within each facility.
DeLong went on to say in October the Authority received a deficiency free outside audit report for the second year in a row. New purchasing regulations have reduced purchasing card expenditures by over $2 million annually and quarterly reports on individual expenditures have decreased over 50 percent in volume.
New scheduling and staffing initiatives have already produced a reduction in overtime in excess of $350,000 from July-October this year and the initiative is yet to be fully implemented agency wide, DeLong said. The real time vacancy rate as of late November was less than three percent. Variances in the Agency’s budget have decreased from a high of 73 percent in 2012 to a maximum deficiency variance of 12 percent this year. The Authority has an in-house legal department and a director of risk management who work very closely with outside legal representation, as well as liability and workers compensation insurance providers, DeLong explained.
“These efforts have already led to a reduction in cases filed, as well as substantial positive outcomes in both state and federal courts,” DeLong said.
In addition, currently a new inmate surveillance system is being implemented Authority wide and risk associated claims have reduced significantly in the areas where this project is compete, according to DeLong. Several projects are also in the works to increase information technology systems. An internal affairs unit has been developed the unit responds to facility issues on a 24 hour, seven day a week basis. A new internal electronic accounting system has been put into place.
Finally, the Authority now has an asset planning division and all elements associated with preventative and site specific maintenance needs are coordinated through best practices with ongoing support and information sharing initiatives.
All of this has been accomplished without increasing personnel service expenditures.
“Most importantly, these restructuring and efficiency increasing efforts led to a 50 cent reduction in the per-diem rate beginning July 1,” DeLong said.