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West Virginia Gov.Jim Justice has declared a state of emergency over staffing issues at the state’s county jails.
Justice announced Thursday that the state’s jails have reached a critical level of staffing shortages, causing him to have to call in the West Virginia National Guard to help staff the facilities, according to WOWK.
The Republican governor blamed the shortages on neighboring states offering much higher pay for corrections officers, calling on the state legislature to act and provide funding for pay raises that will make the state more competitive.
The state of emergency also comes as county commissioners from across West Virginia have shared concerns about the rising cost housing inmates in regional jails, with the state’s most populous jail racking up a bill of $352,321 in July 2022, a 12% increase over the same month last year.
The West Virginia Department of Homeland Security and Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation have been working with a bipartisan group of state legislatures in an attempt to offer a $10,000 locality pay adjustment for corrections officers located in critical areas, according to reporting from WTRF, but that s legislation stalled in the House of Delegates.
Corrections officers in West Virginia currently start at a salary of $33,214, which is lower than neighboring the neighboring states of Virginia ($34,380), Ohio ($37,630), Pennsylvania ($40,270), and Maryland ($43,370).
Justice pointed to the lower salary while noting that the cost of living in West Virginia is higher, arguing that the state would be in a bad situation if it fails to get “this resolved.”