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New jail set to open in Martinsburg

August 11, 1999

Gov. UnderwoodBy BRYN MICKLE / Staff Writer, Martinsburg

photos: RIC DUGAN / staff photographer




MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - As excited as people were to see the newest building on Grapevine Road near Martinsburg, few of them expressed any interest in making a return visit.

The Eastern Panhandle got its first inside look at the new Eastern Regional Jail Wednesday with a dedication ceremony that featured an appearance by West Virginia Gov. Cecil Underwood.

The $17 million, 300-bed jail will replace the neighboring 120-bed jail that is just 10 years old but has been rendered obsolete by the region's growth.

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"This new jail was such a need with the other jail so overcrowded," former Berkeley County Commission President Jim Smith said.

A barbershop, law library, dental and doctor's offices and worship facilities for male and female inmates are among the features of the new facility.

The Martinsburg jail is the first in the state outfitted with new "courtroom of the future" technology that allows prisoners to be arraigned and attend court proceedings without leaving the jail, said Steve Canterbury, the executive director for the West Virginia Regional Jail and Correctional Facility Authority.

Jail CellsInmates can interact with judges, lawyers and witnesses through video cameras and can confer with their attorneys through a private phone line, Canterbury said.

Berkeley County courtrooms will be online with the equipment next month with Morgan and Jefferson county courtrooms expected to add video equipment in the coming months, Canterbury said.

The video arraignment system will be statewide by March 2000, he said.

The facility also features caged outdoor recreation yards and a large gymnasium that, to the consternation of many of those at Wednesday's dedication ceremony, is not air-conditioned.

The new Eastern Regional Jail is part of a statewide jail system that was started 10 years ago in Martinsburg to replace smaller county jails, Canterbury said.

The regional jail approach has resulted in lower inmate costs for West Virginia with a daily cost of $39.50 per inmate compared to the national average of $58 per inmate, Canterbury said.

Inmates in the old Eastern Regional Jail will be transferred to the new jail next month, although Canterbury said the date is being kept secret for security reasons.

A metal detector will be used to sweep the new jail in about 10 days to make sure nothing is left behind during tours of the facility, Canterbury said.

As for what to do with the old jail once inmates are moved into the new facility, Canterbury said the state Division of Corrections has expressed interest in using it as a special facility for felons with substance abuse problems.

"That's not 100 percent, but I believe that's where it's headed," Canterbury said.

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