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Editorial: Gov. Justice won’t let West Virginia won’t be caught off guard at corrections facilities

Gov. Jim Justice’s executive order did not escape our notice last week.

True, our governor’s knack for speaking and behaving like he’s on a stage often captures our attention.

However, he still fails to win much beyond polite applause for his demeanor or his initiatives.

But last week’s executive order to use the West Virginia National Guard to help oversee juvenile and adult lockups deserves an ovation.

Reports in August and October last year made it clear that our prisons and jails are not just woefully overcrowded, but worse, terribly understaffed.

Justice noted the extreme circumstances at the state’s regional jails, where in last summer’s report it was noted the ratio of inmates to guards was nearly 10:1 — more than 5,100 inmates and 586 officers in 10 facilities.

He noted last week that more than 300 staffing vacancies combined existed at these jails.

A more telling figure on this score is that there are more than 1,300 inmates already sentenced in regional jails awaiting space in our prisons.

Meanwhile, in the state’s prisons 1,100 corrections officers were watching over nearly 5,900 inmates — about a 5:1 ratio — in 16 facilities.

Justice’s order is apparently meant to light a fire under the legislative session to find solutions.

One place the legislators can start is by addressing the low pay that is endemic to our state’s corrections officers. Their starting pay is $24,664 a year — $11.87 an hour — which just increased by $1 an hour last spring.

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