Commission sets meeting to discuss possible Lakin changes

POINT PLEASANT — Orange may be the new black, but there’s also a lot of gray area when it comes to unanswered questions concerning the state’s proposal to convert the prison population of Lakin Correctional Facility from female to male inmates.

This proposal was the topic of discussion at Thursday’s meeting of the Mason County Commission. Commissioners Tracy Doolittle and Miles Epling expressed their concerns about not being informed about this proposal sooner. Commissioner Rick Handley was not at the meeting.

County Administrator John Gerlach attended this week’s meeting of the Local Emergency Planning Committee, where he said the proposal was discussed by Lakin personnel. Gerlach told Doolittle and Epling it was his understanding, from the conversation at the meeting, that if the switch was made from female to male prisoners, this would happen over a period of three years. During this time, both male and female inmates would be housed at the facility in segregated parts of the prison until the transition was completed, Gerlach relayed to commissioners. But, again, this information was only relayed to Gerlach at this week’s LEPC meeting and seemed to catch the county commission off guard.

Doolittle said there are so many rumors and “unofficial” information floating around about the proposal, the commission has organized a meeting about it with state delegates and state senators to discuss what is known about the project and how it affects Mason County.

As Epling put it, he was unclear why the state would want to change the facility, which seemed to be operating efficiently and working well in the community.

Among questions commissioners want answered are those concerning the current employees at Lakin and how this will, or won’t, affect their jobs.

This will be an informational meeting and it’s hoped representatives from the West Virginia Division of Corrections can also attend.

As Doolittle said, it needs to be determined if this change is in the “best interest of Mason County.”

The meeting will be at 4 p.m. June 24 in the commission’s meeting room.