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Gov. Tomblin announces state will explore prison option in Mason County

State will not take possession of Sugar Grove Naval Base

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin today announced the state of West Virginia will explore additional prison space for female inmates in Mason County. The governor also announced the state will not take possession of the Sugar Grove Naval Base and instead will work with other parties interested in that facility.

“We greatly appreciate the federal government’s offer to transfer ownership of the Sugar Grove Naval Base to West Virginia,” Gov. Tomblin said. “After careful deliberation, we believe it is in the best interest of the state to consider housing additional female inmates closer to the existing population while other interested parties consider how to best use the Sugar Grove property.”

The West Virginia Division of Corrections examined renovation and operational costs for both Sugar Grove and for the West Virginia National Guard facility in Point Pleasant as potential sites for housing female inmates. While additional due diligence regarding the Point Pleasant site is ongoing, an initial review of the facilities showed that the state would save significant dollars both in upgrades and in operational costs by utilizing the Mason County facility.

Proposed upgrades to Sugar Grove would have cost the state approximately $19 million, with annual operating costs of $14 million to $16 million. The proposal for the Point Pleasant site includes estimated upgrade costs of $8 million, with operational costs of $3.9 million.

The women’s prison at Lakin currently holds 524 female inmates. Additional inmates could be housed at the current National Guard site, which would allow the Division of Corrections to greatly reduce the number of female inmates currently held in regional jails.

“The female inmate population is our fastest growing segment in West Virginia,” Gov. Tomblin said. “This plan provides the most cost-effective means of managing that growth.”

Gov. Tomblin expressed his appreciation for the work of all involved in the deliberations, including Sen. Joe Manchin and his staff, who greatly assisted with federal issues.

KVC Health Systems has expressed interest in using the Sugar Grove property to serve young people transitioning out of foster care by creating a career college. That usage would require the approval of the federal General Services Administration, which is responsible for disposing of the site.

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