Alleged murder plot suggests jail ‘culture’ not fixed

An editorial from The Herald-Dispatch

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Last year, the West Virginia Jail Authority took steps to try to root out what officials called a culture of inappropriateness at the Western Regional Jail in Barboursville. The jail’s administrator was replaced after a period of significant staff turnover and two abuse cases in late 2012 that led to the discipline of 11 correctional officers.

However, in light of indictments last week charging eight people with plotting to kill a suspected sex offender being held at the jail, the housecleaning is apparently far from complete. Four of those charged in the case were correctional officers, who have since been dismissed from their jobs.

When inmates and correctional officers are conspiring to kill someone, “inappropriateness” is still evident.

Details on the conspiracy and an apparent attack on the targeted inmate are scarce at this point. But based on those who are charged, two thoughts come to mind.

One, there still existed a clear misunderstanding among some correctional officers about their roles at the jail.

Apart from ensuring suspected and convicted offenders don’t escape and pose a threat to the public, their duties include working to prevent harm to themselves and any of the inmates in their charge. That is often a thankless job, but an important one.

Second, one has to wonder whether the continuing overcrowded conditions at the jail, brought on by overcrowded state prisons, were a contributing factor..

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