Gov. Jim Justice held a ceremony recently at the Gene Spadaro Juvenile Center in Mount Hope where he signed into law several bills passed in the recent Special Session of the West Virginia Legislature which are all designed to reduce vacancies in the state’s jails and prisons, increase pay scales for correctional officers, and offer retention incentives for non-uniform correctional staff.
“It is incredibly important our hardworking correctional officers get paid what they deserve,” Gov. Justice said. “This legislation is just a drop in the bucket, but it will go a long way in filling our vacant positions and upgrading our jails around the state. We have been working with lawmakers for a while to make this happen, and I am thrilled to see it cross the finish line. This is a big win for West Virginia.”
Three of the bills signed today by the Governor will directly increase efforts to fill vacant positions at the state’s correctional facilities. SB 1003, SB 1004, and SB 1005 relate to increased funding for the West Virginia Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation (DCR). The legislation provides $25 million to supplement salaries for current correctional staff, increase starting pay for new staff, and provide a bonus for non-uniformed staff employed by DCR.
These funds will be used to increase starting pay for correctional officers within DCR, which operates the state’s jails, prisons, and juvenile facilities.
“This legislation is a monumental step toward reducing the vacancies throughout our system so we can continue to enhance public safety across West Virginia,” Commissioner of the West Virginia Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation William Marshall said. “We want to continue building on this current momentum, and I thank Gov. Justice for getting us to this point. Without him, we would not have been able to make this kind of progress in addressing our critical needs.”
The new legislation will increase the starting salary for a correctional officer from $35,514 to $40,000. At the end of their second year of service, the salary will be $48,000. Correctional officers, categories three through seven and non-uniform staff, will begin to receive an annual increase of $250 in 2024. Current correctional staff will receive two retention incentives totaling $4,600 with the first effective increase in October and the second scheduled for March 2024.
“We are planning to redouble our efforts around recruitment and retention,” Marshall said. “In addition to attracting highly qualified individuals – both uniform and non-uniform – at our facilities across the state, we are continuing to focus on retention efforts for the men and women who have dedicated some or all their careers to supporting the state’s correctional system. At this time, we’re focusing on hosting hiring events, working with WorkForce West Virginia and other agencies to fill these vacancies. If you or anyone you know might be interested in a position with DCR, please reach out to us.”
Gov. Justice also signed SB 1006, which expands an existing program that provides temporary identification cards for individuals exiting the corrections system. These temporary cards, which are offered free-of-charge, will now be valid for 180 days.
“This change allows individuals exiting the system a longer window to reestablish themselves as a functioning citizen. An official, state-issued ID allows them to open a checking account, get or renew a driver’s license or get a job,” Marshall said.
Gov. Justice signed SB 1039, which allows the DCR special revenue fund to now be used toward deferred maintenance projects.
“The passage of this bill allows us to prioritize vital facility upgrades and replace aging equipment,” Marshall said. “Overall, the legislation passed during the Special Session allows us to be more strategic and proactive as we continue to focus on public safety throughout our great state.”
Finally, Gov. Justice signed SB 1009 which prohibits the use of state funds for certain procedures or benefits not medically necessary for persons in the custody of DCR.
The DCR oversees West Virginia’s 11 prisons, ten regional jails, ten juvenile centers, and three work-release sites.