MOUNT HOPE, WV (WVNS)– Governor Jim Justice on Monday, August 14, 2023, signed into law six bills, passed by West Virginia lawmakers earlier this month during a special legislative session.

All aim to improve conditions inside state prisons, jails and juvenile centers.

William Marshall, who has served since January as commissioner of West Virginia Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation, attended the event.

Marshall said the legislation addresses severe understaffing and allows for raises and bonuses for corrections officers.

“We have about two thousand some employees right now, we’ve got a thousand vacancies we’re trying to address, so you can imagine all of the people in and out of our facilities,” said Marshall. “It takes a toll.”

Ricky Scarbro, superintendent of the Gene Spadaro Juvenile Center, welcomed the promised raises.

“It’s going to mean a lot. It’s been a long time coming,” said Scarbro. “We’re still working to get our pay up a little bit. The hope is that we’ll be able to get some new hires, and pay them a decent amount, and that will alleviate stress on some of our employees, who have stuck it out, for awhile.”

Two federal lawsuits filed recently against the West Virginia Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation, allege broken locks on jail cells lead to incarcerated people being sexually and physically assaulted while serving sentences or before standing trial.

Marshall said one of the bills passed by lawmakers will allocate funding to repair the locks.
“Now, we’re focusing on our jails doors and door locking systems,” said Marshall. “Some of them are failing right now, and, so they’re, they’ve been, the original locks from when the jails were built, about 25 years ago, and so some of those need to be replaced.”

Marshall said state officials had planned a number of maintenance projects, prior to attorneys filing federal lawsuits on behalf of inmates and prisoners, including HVAC replacement, maintenance of fire suppression systems, and renovations to kitchens and bathrooms.