CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – Correctional workers need hire pay, West Virginia Governor Jim Justice said while addressing the state’s critical shortage of corrections workers. The governor also says he plans to call lawmakers back to Charleston because of the shortage.
All state workers in West Virginia are getting pay raises this year, but many wanted correctional officers to get an even bigger increase.
The state’s prisons and jails are hemorrhaging employees. As of now there are more than 1,000 vacant positions in West Virginia correctional facilities, with no end in sight. The National Guard is filling in to staff some jobs. Salaries are driving this crisis. Federal corrections and most surrounding states, pay much higher – between $44 to $55,000.
Because West Virginia officers leave to take those better-paying jobs, Justice wants a special session of the legislature to fix it.
“You can’t blame people that can go right across the border, or whatever it may be. You can’t blame people for taking a job that’s going to make $44,000 to $55,000 when you’re making $36,000. How in the world?” said Justice.
“And we should have done more to address the crisis in corrections. We have national guards men and women in our prisons right now because we’re so short-staffed,” said State Sen. Mike Caputo, (D) Marion.
One issue that derailed the corrections pay raises, what the concept of “locality pay.” The bill would have given employees in the Eastern Panhandle higher salaries, because the cost of living in the Washington, DC metropolitan area, is so expensive. Many lawmakers in other parts of West Virginia felt that was unfair, and voted no.
As for when the special session will be called? The governor says he does not have a specific date but wants to hear from legislative leaders first.