By: Rachel Dove-BaldwinHeartland News Service
October 31, 2012
CHARLESTON - A total of thirty-eight county commissioners from across the State of WV met in Charleston on Oct. 14 and 15, along with representatives from the WV Regional Jail Authority to discuss the increasing costs for incarcerating inmates in regional jails.
According to Vivian Parsons, the Executive Director of the County Commissioners’ Association, rising jail costs is the top 2013 legislative priority for commissioners.
“It is imperative for this group to find financial relief for counties, otherwise rising costs due to inmate population is going to have far reaching financial consequences,” stated Parsons. “This issue, if not addressed locally and legislatively, will force commissions across the state to make cuts to important county services.”
During this 2 day summit, a list of over 30 issues and concerns were presented and after much discussion and lively debate, the following top priorities emerged:
The method for collecting outstanding court costs includes checking for nonpayment at the time of vehicle registration/license renewals and withholding income tax refunds for outstanding court costs in magistrate and circuit courts.
Sharing of jail costs among all arresting entities, supporting proposed changes to statute regarding the Regional Jail Association’s personnel budgeting requirements and limited latitude in calculating per diem formula; supporting Probation before Judgement, a pre-trial diversion program that has been successfully used in Baltimore, Md., and encouraging county public education awareness programs regarding jail costs and the resulting effect on other county services.
Further, the group committed to regional training efforts to share jail cost containment “Best Practices” among the Association membership.
Finally, the group established “CCAWV Regional Jail Steering Committee” and the following members were appointed: Chris Tatum, Cabell County Administrator will serve as Chairman; Patsy Noland (Jefferson County Commissioner); Matt Wender (Fayette County Commissioner); Donnie Tenney, Upshur County Commissioner; Butch Tennant, Marion County Commissioner; Megan Pomeroy, Upshur County Assistant Administrator; Ron Watson, Harrison County Commissioner; Deborah Hammond, Berkeley County Administrator; Gordon Lambert, McDowell County Commissioner and Tim McCormick, Ohio County Commissioner.
The charge of this committee is to monitor and study the issues as outlined by the group, beginning with the 5 top priorities, bring forth recommendations to the CCAWV as needed, and to provide an ongoing forum for the continued pursuit of financial relief stemming from the costs associated with incarcerating inmates in all the WDRJA system.
The newly formed committee set Nov. 19 as their first conference call meeting.