CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — With staffing vacancies over 60% at two correctional facilities in West Virginia, Gov. Jim Justice issued a state of emergency Thursday that would allow the National Guard to help with the shortages.
“These are critical positions and if numbers continue to dip, failure to act could become a safety concern,” Justice said in a statement. “That’s why I’m taking action and calling this State of Emergency now.”
The Potomac Highlands Regional Jail in Hampshire County has a vacancy rate of 64%, and the Vicki V. Douglas Juvenile Center in Berkeley County has a vacancy rate of 61%, the statement said. Both counties are in the state’s Eastern Panhandle.
Correctional officers in that region are able to make more money working in Maryland, Virginia or Pennsylvania, making a local adjustment needed, the statement said. Added with a higher average cost of living in the area, it is difficult to recruit officers, the governor’s office said.
The Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation has had to assign non-uniformed support staff to fill mandatory posts in the Eastern Panhandle, Justice’s office said.
Justice said he was disappointed this year’s legislature did not take action to adjust pay for officers where needed.