The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Latest News

November 26, 2012

Regional Jail director troubled by suspected cover-up

CHARLESTON — Excessive force accusations have left 15 officers at the Western Regional Jail on suspension without pay, and the executive director of the Regional Jail Authority Director says he is more troubled by a suspected cover-up than the brutality itself.

Joe DeLong told the Legislative Oversight Committee on Regional Jail and Correctional Facility Authority on Monday that about 20 officers across the 10-jail system are now suspended during various investigations.

Sen. Bill Laird IV, D-Fayette, a co-chairman of the panel, said he heard of a “rash” of incidents involving excessive force against inmates at the Western Regional Jail.

A former four-term sheriff, Laird said reported patterns of misconduct is “when I get concerned and disturbed.”

“I have a greater concern about the buddy system in the Western Regional Jail — see nothing, hear nothing, report nothing — than I do with the rash of incidents,” DeLong said.

Possibly lying to investigators “is every bit as troublesome as the act itself,” the director said.

One inmate was hospitalized with a collapsed lung and a broken back and ribs, DeLong said.

DeLong said one man who he felt wasn’t involved in suspected brutality but agreed to cover-up for his fellow officers, alluding to the fact “we were told if we all stick together and stick to the same story, they can’t do anything to us.”

“That culture concerns me more than the use of force,” DeLong said.

DeLong promised the legislators he would address this because, “One incident is too many. We can’t accept it.”

Another grim prospect of this attitude is that inmates at times are transferred to other facilities and are inclined to talk about their experiences with officers, DeLong said.

And allowing abuses at one jail could spark a riot at another, the director said.

On another controversial matter, DeLong told the legislative panel he likely erred by saying a state law obligated his agency to give an officer 3,100 hours of severance pay on the very day he was jailed in Beckley on suspected sexual solicitation of inmates.

Laird said the awarding of severance pay to an officer at Southern Regional Jail the day he was accused of sexual misdeeds “shocked the public a little bit.”

DeLong acknowledged that his comments to the media to the effect that state law requires such payment, regardless of the circumstances, was wrong.

Once he got deeper into the rule, DeLong said the payment wasn’t required since the officer was charged with misconduct.

Such offenses “certainly would fall under gross misconduct and he probably shouldn’t have been paid his severance.”

Another side of the coin occurs when officers are suspended without pay pending the outcome of investigations and allegations against them simply aren’t true, he said.

“In the meantime, they’ve had to pawn off belongings in order to pay their bills, or missed bills, or done things that reverse credit,” DeLong told the panel.

“Obviously, if allegations bear fruit (against the 20 currently suspended), we’ve got serious issues. If they don’t, people who have families are trying to figure out whether to buy their kids anything for Christmas this year.”

In another matter, Corrections Commissioner Jim Rubenstein advised the committee that the recidivism rate among West Virginia’s inmates dropped from 30.04 percent in 2007 to 28.5 percent in 2008, in the most recent update.

Rubenstein said 20.54 percent went back to prison because parole was revoked, while 8.01 percent were convicted of fresh crimes.

“That’s something we’re still working on and feel we can even get that lower,” he said of the rate.

— E-mail:

Text Only
Latest News
  • twv play 2 Season’s curtain call

    Tonight is the last chance to see Theatre West Virginia Act II’s production of “Hatfields and McCoys,” a 17-show season many thought would never happen.


    August 2, 2014 2 Photos

  • Alpha says reducing coal stockpiles could prevent layoffs

    An Alpha Natural Resources spokesman said Friday that the company is “hopeful” that coal stockpiles can be sold in the next few months so the company can avoid laying off more than 1,100 surface coal miners and other support personnel by mid-October. 

    August 2, 2014

  • Congress quick-fix: Highways funded through mid-2015

    Hours before the federal government was set to reduce payments to states for road and bridge projects, Congress approved a temporary fix late Thursday night that would maintain funding through the middle of next year.

    But in some ways, the damage already had been done.

    August 2, 2014

  • makeawish Selling stars: A dollar helps grant a child's wish

    Make-A-Wish and the West Virginia Oil Marketers and Grocers Association (OMEGA) are partnering to sell “wish stars” at grocery and convenience stores throughout the state. You can get a star for $1 through the month of August. All money raised will go to making children’s wishes come true.

    August 2, 2014 1 Photo

  • W.Va., 11 other states, ask Supreme Court to declare new EPA rules illegal

    Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said Friday that West Virginia led a bipartisan group of 12 states that are asking the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., to declare illegal a settlement agreement in which the EPA promised to issue its now-pending rule concerning existing coal-fired power plants.

    August 1, 2014

  • Ebola outbreak moving faster than control efforts

    An Ebola outbreak that has killed more than 700 people in West Africa is moving faster than efforts to control the disease, the head of the World Health Organization warned as presidents from the affected countries met Friday in Guinea's capital.

    August 1, 2014

  • Oak Hill man arrested for selling drugs to police officers

    A Fayette County man is in jail after his arrest Thursday evening for several drug offenses, according to a press release from the Fayette County Sheriff's Office.

    August 1, 2014

  • Suspect arrested, faces felony charges following shooting incident

    A Mercer County man was arrested and arraigned on felony charges Thursday after a domestic altercation led to a shooting incident in the Montcalm area of Mercer County.

    August 1, 2014

  • pittsburgh rally 5,000 rally in Pittsburgh against EPA Clean Power Plan

    The echo of people chanting, “Hey, hey, EPA, don’t take our jobs away” could be heard in downtown Pittsburgh Thursday. The voices came from about 5,000 United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) members and their families, along with other unions such as the Boilermakers and the Brotherhood of Electrical Workers International (IBEW), marching through the streets.


    August 1, 2014 1 Photo 3 Stories

  • Alpha plans to idle coal workers

    Approximately 1,100 employees at 11 Alpha Resources-affiliated surface mines, preparation plants and other support operations in southern West Virginia got notice late Thursday afternoon that their jobs could be in jeopardy.


    August 1, 2014