(WTRF)- The State of West Virginia exclusively responded back to 7News regarding alleged over population at Northern Regional Jail.

Good afternoon. As explained in the prior email below, inmate population levels remain a challenge throughout the regional jails system. While this was an issue before COVID-19, the precautions and safeguards established in response to the epidemic have greatly restricted transfers among facilities and otherwise heightened this challenge.

As previously noted, population levels have improved at NRJ in recent weeks. This promising trend has extended to this week; the count there as of this morning was 411. About the same portion as before are pretrial defendants, and so subject to bail and other relevant decisions by magistrates or circuit judges.

The recruitment and retention of correctional officers and staff are similarly a challenge, as W.Va. Homeland Security Secretary Jeff Sandy explained during Thursday’s edition of MetroNews’ Talkline program. But the multiple rounds of pay raises secured by Gov. Justice and such other advances as a defined career path have improved that situation as well.

Top DCR leadership have been to the facility yesterday and today, and will continue to work with its administrators to ensure the safety and security of its inmates and staff.

7News spoke to a former employee of the Northern Regional Jail who claimed hundreds of cells don’t close, saying you can’t lock the inmates into some of those cells