CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- State Division of Corrections officials could contract with out-of-state jails to house as many as 400 inmates, as one of several ways under consideration to alleviate overcrowding in state prisons.
Corrections Commissioner Jim Rubenstein told legislators Monday that the division has put out a request for bids for out-of-state correctional facilities to house inmates.
State prisons are beyond capacity. The Division of Corrections pays $31 million to $34 million a year to the state Regional Jail Authority to house about 1,600 inmates who are supposed to be in state prisons rather than regional jails.
While in regional jails, Corrections inmates cannot participate in treatment programs and classes necessary to become eligible for parole -- effectively extending their prison time.
"We've got to cut into that jail population, with people just sitting there for an extended period of time," said Sen. Bill Laird, D-Fayette, a former county sheriff.
Rubenstein said after Monday's meeting that when the bid proposal was being drafted, Corrections officials had Virginia in mind as a possible destination for the 400 inmates.
"Virginia had excess capacity in its prisons, but upon inquiry ... they indicated they currently don't," Rubenstein said.
Assignment to out-of-state prisons would be voluntary, and inmates would have to sign a document waiving their rights under the West Virginia Constitution's banishment clause.
Dating back to the original state constitution, the clause prohibits sending inmates to other states, and was apparently designed to assure that residents could not be banished from West Virginia for their participation in the Civil War.