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Eastern Regional Jail won't be used for juveniles

July 13, 1999|By BRYN MICKLE

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - The Eastern Regional Jail will not be converted for use as a juvenile detention center when a new adult jail opens next month in Martinsburg, according to the head of the state jail authority.

The state had been considering a plan to use the current 120-bed jail on W.Va. 9 as a juvenile facility but opted against the idea when it became apparent it would cost upwards of $4 million in construction costs, said Steve Canterbury, the executive director for the West Virginia Regional Jail and Correctional Facility Authority in Charleston, W.Va.

The problem of too few beds for juvenile offenders is still a pressing issue for the state, Canterbury said.

"It's something that's been overlooked for about 70 years and we're still looking for solutions," he said.

One idea to alleviate the problem for the Eastern Panhandle centers on building a new juvenile detention center on several acres of property behind the recreation yard of the current juvenile home in Martinsburg, Canterbury said.

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The 11-bed juvenile facility would then be converted into a girl's detention center. The new building and conversion would cost an estimated $4 million, he said.

Plans for a new Martinsburg juvenile facility are still in the preliminary stages and no time lines have been set for the project, Canterbury said.

The state will hold a grand opening ceremony August 11 to show off the new jail for the public, Canterbury said.

The $17 million jail will hold 300 beds and was built to alleviate overcrowding problems in the current jail.

Canterbury was mum on the exact date the new jail will begin housing prisoners, but said it will be within a month of the open house for the general public.

A metal detector will be brought in to make sure no "forgotten" items are left behind, Canterbury said.

As far as the fate of the old jail, Canterbury said the state will continue to study its options.

The state Division of Corrections is considering specialized uses, including making the jail a treatment center for prisoners with drug and alcohol problems or using it for work release programs, Canterbury said.

The possibility of using the Eastern Regional Jail as a sex offender unit is unlikely because the state already has other facilities to house those prisoners, he said.

"I haven't seen any interest in using Martinsburg for that," Canterbury said.

The Division of Corrections is expected to make a decision on the jail within the next two months, he said.

The state has also not ruled out the idea if leasing the jail to the U.S. government to house federal prisoners or use by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service.

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