CHARLESTON,W.Va. -- State Parole Board Chairman Dennis Foreman told legislators Sunday he fully supports expanding education and rehabilitation courses to Corrections inmates housed in regional jails to help them become eligible for parole more quickly.
"We strongly believe we need a education/rehabilitation program set up in Regional Jails, and the sooner the better," Foreman told the Legislative Oversight Committee on Regional Jails and Corrections.
Foreman said the Parole Board generally wants inmates who otherwise have good records to complete at least four or five of the courses -- with programs covering issues such as alcohol and substance abuse, anger management, rational thinking, and parenting -- in order to be granted parole.
"It's very hard to parole somebody with no classes [completed]," he said.
For Corrections inmates housed in regional jails because of prison overcrowding, only two courses are available that meet Parole Board standards for Corrections inmates: Crime Victim Awareness, and 99 Days, a program to help inmates re-enter society.
Regional Jail Authority executive director Joe DeLong said regional jails offer other classes, but they are designed for short-term offenders, and are not as extensive or as intensive as the corresponding courses available in state prisons.
"I hate to put it this way, but they're sort of a watered-down version," he said of the regional jail offerings.
Regional jails could offer the expanded versions of the courses, but DeLong said that would require hiring additional counselors at a cost of about $750,000 a year.
That investment would probably save the state somewhere between $6 million and $8 million a year by allowing inmates to become parole-eligible more quickly.
Sen. Bill Laird, D-Fayette, asked whether the governor's office has considered putting that appropriation in the 2014-15 state budget bill.
"I assume somebody looked at whether we want to appropriate $700,000 to save several million dollars," said Laird, committee co-chairman.