The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Latest News

September 14, 2013

Jail Authority adopts cost-cutting measures

LEWISBURG — With a burgeoning crime rate driven by the drug trade pushing jail populations up, Greenbrier is one of many counties in the state that finds itself scrambling to meet rising incarceration costs.

Speaking to the Greenbrier County Commission, John Doyle of the Regional Jail Authority outlined several cost-control measures that have been instituted recently in the state’s prison system.

He said that over the past 18 months, the authority has tried to “get (its) financial house in order,” putting everything from employment practices to purchasing decisions under the microscope.

As a result of the review and revamp, the Regional Jail Authority has seen measurable improvements in overtime costs, employee turnover and P-card purchases — reducing the amount charged on the government-issued credit cards from more than $1 million in fiscal year 2012 to $365,000 in fiscal year 2013.

The authority, Doyle told the commission at Tuesday’s meeting, has also remained focused on the prison overcrowding problem, noting that too many nonviolent offenders have been confined, at great expense to counties and the state. He pointed to Greenbrier County’s Day Report Center, which was recently recognized with a state award for excellence, as an example of what can be done to divert those nonviolent offenders from incarceration.

“It’s important that the rest of the state learns what you folks are doing here in community corrections,” Doyle told the commission.

Realizing the Regional Jail system needed “more cost-effective customer service,” Doyle said, the authority examined its fee structure and made adjustments. As a result, the fee charged to the U.S. government for housing federal prisoners rose from $50 a day to $65 a day, while the daily fee charged to counties for their prisoners dropped marginally from $48.80 to $48.25.

That small fee reduction saved West Virginia’s counties a cumulative $516,000 in the last fiscal year, Doyle said.

Thanking Doyle for the report, commission President Karen Lobban nonetheless took a gentle swipe at the authority, saying, “I’m glad you finally woke up after all these years.”

She told Doyle that there are further changes needed, citing counties’ cash flow woes that sometimes delay full payment of a monthly jail bill. The authority is less than understanding when a payment is occasionally short, Lobban said.

She also said the authority needs to adjust fees charged for late-day admission of prisoners, noting that currently the county is assessed for a full day for a prisoner who is taken to jail minutes before midnight and another full day for the day that begins at midnight. That means that a county will have to pay for two days of incarceration for a prisoner who may be in jail for only a few hours before making bail.

“This stuff is bankrupting some counties,” Lobban said.

Greenbrier’s Regional Jail bill averages around $50,000 a month, taking more than 5 percent of the county’s general fund budget annually.

Commissioner Woody Hanna also offered a suggestion, asking Doyle if the authority had considered purchasing food from West Virginia farmers and collectives, where feasible. Hanna said, even if the food ended up costing more, purchasing it locally in the same way some state schools are now doing would be worth the extra expense “to put the money into the hands of West Virginians.”

“I think that’s an excellent idea,” Doyle responded. “It’s conceivable we haven’t thought about that before.”

He said he would run the various suggestions by the authority and advise the commission of the agency’s response.

— E-mail: talvey@register-herald.com

1
Text Only
Latest News
  • snowywalk April is the cruelest month

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Renew W.Va. car registration online

    State residents strapped for time got a break Tuesday when Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and Acting Division of Motor Vehicles Director Steve Dale announced new DMV online options for renewing vehicle registration.

    April 16, 2014

  • Manchin says mines should speak out about coal

    The Democratic senator leading the battle against the White House’s strategy to fight climate change urged the mining industry on Tuesday to speak out about coal’s role in providing affordable, reliable electricity to the country to help combat strict new emissions rules for coal-fired power plants.

    April 16, 2014

  • Rainelle Town Council pulls plans to annex roads

    Residents of several communities in Greenbrier County can rest assured they won’t be affected by a proposed road annexation after Rainelle Town Council decided not to move forward with the plan.

    April 16, 2014

  • City and county code enforcement offices separate

    After 10 years of partnership, the City of Beckley and the Raleigh County Code Enforcement offices have decided to part ways.
    Mayor Bill O’Brien said after several meetings with county commissioners, the groups decided to separate.

    April 16, 2014

  • eggy All mine!

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Manchin urges mines to speak out about coal

    The Democratic senator leading the battle against the White House’s strategy to fight climate change urged the mining industry on Tuesday to speak out about coal’s role in providing affordable, reliable electricity to the country to help combat strict new emissions rules for coal-fired power plants.

    April 15, 2014

  • State jobless rate inches up in March

    West Virginia’s unemployment rate inched up in March to 6.1 percent.

    April 15, 2014

  • 2 brothers arrested in cockfighting investigation

    A cockfighting bust by the West Virginia State Police has led to the arrest of two Mercer County brothers.

    April 15, 2014

  • Williamson mayor to step down April 30

    Williamson Mayor Darrin McCormick is stepping down at the end of the month.

    April 15, 2014