CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Legislators discussed options Monday for expanding counseling and educational programs for Division of Corrections inmates housed in regional jails, as a possible alternative to a proposal to send up to 400 inmates to a private prison in Kentucky.
"We're apparently looking at exporting inmates out-of-state, mainly because the programming is not available," said Sen. Bill Laird, D-Fayette.
Because of overcrowding, more than 1,300 Corrections inmates are housed in regional jails, where they do not have access to counseling and educational/vocational courses they must complete to become eligible for parole.
John Lopez, chief of operations for the state Regional Jail Authority, told the Legislative Oversight Committee on Regional Jails and Corrections on Monday that the jail authority has submitted a proposal to expand programming for Corrections inmates, but has not received a response from the secretary of Military Affairs and Public Safety or the governor's office.
"What I understand is they're looking at several options, and this is one of several," Lopez told the legislative committee.
Lopez said the proposal calls for hiring one to two additional full-time counselors at each of the 10 regional jails, at a cost of about $700,000 a year for salaries and benefits.
He said eight programs are currently available to inmates at all Regional Jails, but only two are specifically geared to Corrections inmates.
The jails offer abbreviated versions of programs on domestic violence, life skills, anger management, and alcohol and substance abuse, but the Parole Board does not recognize completion of those courses as qualifying Corrections inmates for parole eligibility, Lopez said.
"I do think we could offer the programs, and I do think it would be cost-effective," he said of expanding the programming.