W.Va. lawmakers advance bill to heal prison bills for one more year | New


CHARLESTON – Six days before its expiration, the West Virginia Senate voted Thursday to maintain a temporary flat rate for the cost of incarcerating people in the state’s regional prison system.

The Senate approved the bill keeping the flat rate in place until 2022 in swift and unanimous action during the first day of a special session.

Measurement, Senate Bill 2023, had advanced into the House on Thursday afternoon, but at the time of going to press, the House had not reconvened to consider the bill.

Without action from lawmakers, county and municipal governments would have to find ways to cover an almost 14% increase in the rate they pay the Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation to incarcerate people in the 10 regional prisons across the country. Status as of July 1.

The Senate approved the measure six days before the rate would drop from $ 48.25 per inmate, per day, to potentially $ 54.88 per inmate, per day, based on the most recent calculations by the Office of the Budget. the state.

Senate Judiciary President Charles Trump R-Morgan said state lawmakers overheard their county commissioners talking about the per diem rate.

“It doesn’t matter what part of the state you live in or what party you belong to,” Trump said. “I’m glad there is bipartisan support for this. I’m really glad the governor included it in the call for this session. This bill will really improve the finances of the 55 counties in West Virginia. “

Senator Mike Romano, D-Harrison, said he shared Trump’s sentiments, but warned lawmakers had more work to do than extending the fixed daily rate for a year.

“I think it’s important for us to realize that this is a ball that we’re going to be able to throw on the road during a drill (but which will eventually) explode,” said Romano. “We need to tackle the problem of regional prisons and resolve it effectively and permanently, or we will bankrupt our counties.”

Gov. Jim Justice on Tuesday added an expiring daily rate bill to his call for a special session, four days after he made the original appeal.

Senatorial Minority Leader Stephen Baldwin, D-Greenbrier, is the bill’s main sponsor.

The Legislative Assembly also considers a bill (Bill 203) which will provide $ 9.4 million to be allocated to the Division of Corrections for “current expenses”, as well as an additional $ 22.5 million to Correctional Services for “capital and maintenance expenses. “.

About $ 15 million of investment and maintenance funds would be needed to rehabilitate Anthony Correctional Center in Greenbrier County, closed since May 2018 due to mold issues at the juvenile offender facility.

The House Finance Committee approved House Bill 203 on Thursday evening.

County commissioners have expressed frustration with their ever-growing prison bills for years. Recent measures taken by the Legislature, including bail reforms and the flat rate per diem, have reduced some costs, but have not eased the financial burden on local governments.

Since the flat rate went into effect, county governments have saved a total of $ 15.7 million, Mike Coleman, director of administrative services for the Department of Homeland Security, told the Legislature’s Prison Oversight Committee. regional authority and correctional facilities authority on June 8.

The counties also saved $ 18.8 million thanks to a provision in the law that shifted the cost of incarceration from the counties to the state, effective the day an incarcerated person is convicted of a felony, a Coleman said.

The Legislature has kept the per diem allowance at $ 48.25 since a 2018 law that restructured the administration of the Corrections and Rehabilitation Division. The law, which expires on July 1, also required the state budget office to calculate the actual cost of incarcerating a person based on the costs of the past three years.

These most recent calculations put the actual cost of incarcerating a person in West Virginia regional prisons at $ 54.88 per day.

The Legislature is expected to reconvene for the second day of its special session on Friday.

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