Lincoln County’s TRUSTED news source.

Click here to stay informed and subscribe to the The Lincoln Journal.

Click #isupportlocal for more information on supporting our local journalists.

The West Virginia Legislature created the Regional Jail and Correctional Facility Authority (RJCFA) 23 years ago to relieve struggling local governments from the burden of operating and staffing separate jails at all 55 county courthouses. Many of those counties had not been able to maintain the jails in acceptable humane standards and were under court orders at the time to make substantial improvements. As a result the RJCFA now has 10 regional jails strategically located from Barboursville to Martinsburg that took over that responsibility. The first was opened in early 1993 at Flatwoods and the last one in Cabell County less than five years ago. Each county is charged a daily rate for each prisoner that has been confined in the jail from that county. The South Central Regional Jail in Kanawha County, opened in 1993, has a capacity for 372 inmates and services only two counties—Kanawha and Jackson. The North Central Regional Jail covers the largest territory, both in size and number of counties. Located just off U. S. Route 50 in Doddridge County, it serves nine counties stretching from Monongalia County to Wood County and is one of the two largest with space for 400 inmates. The amount of that daily rate charged to the counties has been a bone of contention in recent years and the State Supreme Court ruled last year the RJCFA had to reconsider the daily rate that many counties claimed was excessive. As a result, the fee was reduced from $48.50 per day to $47.53. Still, most of the counties are not keeping up with their payments. According to a recent report, counties owed the regional jails more than $5 million at the end of the state fiscal year June 30, 2008. But counties aren’t the only government agencies that use the regional jails and don’t pay for that service on time. The state Division of Corrections owes the authority nearly $1 million in overdue fees for housing parole violators and convicted felons awaiting transfer to overcrowded state penal facilities that are overcrowded. And even the federal Bureau of Prisons and the U. S. Marshal services are behind on their payment obligations. Since these daily fees are a major source of income for regional jail operations, the agency has initiated a more aggressive effort to make the counties and other agencies pay promptly the full amount each county owes. Kanawha County owes the jail authority $1.03 million as of June 30, 2008. And both Berkeley and Mercer counties each have obligations that exceed $1.2 million each. Cabell County, where the county commissioners filed the case in the State Supreme Court that resulted in the decision to reduce the daily fee, still owes $270,442. There seems to be little argument that elected officials in every county are grateful for the regional jail system which took away one of their major problems. But failing to satisfy their financial obligations to that benefactor seems like a strange way to demonstrate that gratitude. MEANWHILE, at first it was the obvious affinity with his name. But as I got to know former Supreme Court Justice Thomas E. Miller of Wheeling, who died last week, I was impressed with his character and his abilities. He was one of three men who dramatically shifted the balance of power on the five-member Supreme Court from Democratic conservatism for most of the 20th century to an obvious Democratic liberalism in 1976. Miller had campaigned across the state that year with Justice Darrell V. McGraw, Jr. and Justice Sam Harshbarger on an unabashed platform of support for the working man and all three won 12-year terms in the November general election. After they took office in 1977, the liberal tendency continued not only on the court during Miller’s 18 years on the court until his resignation in 1994 but also with the election or appointment of other liberal Democrats like W. B. (Bill) Brotherton Jr. (1984), Joseph P. Albright (1995), Larry Starcher (1996) and Warren R. McGraw (1998). It was not until Republican Brent Benjamin recently became the second Republican elected to the court in the last 80 years that the 3-2 conservative edge was re-established on the court—a situation that may be reversed again in the November general election. . . FINALLY, despite its annual nine-figure yields, the West Virginia Lottery has demonstrated once again that it doesn’t believe in spending its money foolishly. The latest example is the decision to save about $90,000 a year by switching from commercial to public television for its nightly televised lottery drawings. Lottery Director John Musgrave said his agency currently pays $20,833 a month to West Virginia Media Holdings to produce and transmit the one-minute daily lottery numbers drawing. Starting Oct. 10, West Virginia Public Broadcasting which is a sister state agency, will do it for just over $13,300 a month. State law allows contacts between state agencies without going through the bidding process.

Recommended for you