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Increase in correctional officer pay could help jail system, officials say

Jail officials said continuously staffing correctional facilities in the state is difficult because of the low pay. (WCHS/WVAH)

It's an ongoing challenge — a search for a solution as Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety officials and legislators met Sunday to focus on issues in the jail system.

Jail officials said continuously staffing correctional facilities in the state is difficult because of the low pay.

DMAPS Communications Director Lawrence Messina said the state falls behind when officers can leave the state for the same position and increase their income drastically.

While there are other problems facing the jails in West Virginia, Messina said finding solutions, starts with paying workers more. He said the state ranks last for starting salaries for correctional officers.

“We lose good people because the incentives aren’t in place to keep them at it, these are folks who want to serve the public and want to help with public safety but these are pretty daunting challenges in terms of providing for themselves and their families,” Messina said.

Officials expect this to be a topic in the upcoming legislative session.

“Operating safely and humanely and securely these correctional facilities is absolutely an essential function of government,” Messina said. “I think everybody here at the capitol believes that and agrees with that regardless of their party…We are hopeful that all parties when this 2018 regular session starts, comes to the conclusion that we must and that we can make a meaningful difference in terms of improving the conditions for these correctional officers and that will include their pay.”

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