He also questioned why Corrections was pursuing the out-of-state option, months after the Legislature passed the Justice Reinvestment Act (SB371), intended to reduce prison overcrowding, and with the conversion of the former Industrial Home for Youth in Salem into a correctional facility.
"My question is, why now, if we're going to have expanded capabilities at Salem, and other efforts to enhance capacity within our system?" Laird asked.
Rubenstein said Salem currently houses 114 inmates, with about 60 inmates being transferred there each week until it reaches its 388-bed capacity.
He said that still leaves a lot of Corrections inmates in regional jails.
Rubenstein believes the Justice Reinvestment Act will be effective in reducing prison overcrowding when fully implemented, with elements such as expanded community corrections, transitional housing and graduated sanctions still in the developmental stages.
He said Corrections is already seeing benefits from the initial efforts to implement the legislation. Six months ago, he noted, the total state inmate population hit the 7,100 mark.
"This morning it's at 6,842," he said Monday.
Rubenstein also noted that while the West Virginia Constitution prohibits out-of-state banishment of prisoners, attorneys have advised that inmates can voluntarily waive that right in order to be transferred from regional jails to the out-of-state facility.
"We have checked that out with a number of legal counsel, and I have been advised we are well within our rights to do that," he said.
Reach Phil Kabler at ph...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1220.