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Old jail to become state intake center

March 21, 2002|BY SARAH MULLIN

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - The old Eastern Regional Jail, which has been unused for about three years, will be revamped as an intake facility, serving inmates from across West Virginia.

Officials with the West Virginia Division of Corrections and the Regional Jail and Correctional Facility Authority made the announcement Wednesday night. The complex is located off W.Va. 9 in Martinsburg.

It is at an intake facility that those who have been sentenced are classified and then sent to the appropriate prison, such as minimum, medium or maximum security, to serve their sentences.

The facility will be under the direction of the Division of Corrections and will serve inmates from throughout the state.

"We have taken a long time to get here," said Steve Canterbury, executive director of the Regional Jail and Correctional Facility Authority.

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The tentative opening date is summer 2003, he said.

In an intake facility, the criminal history, education, mental health, and interests of the inmate are evaluated. The inmates are then designated for the type of prison in which they should serve their sentence.

The intake process is meant to take about 60 days, but lack of space in the prisons and jails has caused some inmates to stay at the facilities for up to 120 days, Canterbury said.

Architects from Silling Associates from Charleston, W.Va., toured the old jail Wednesday.

Officials with the firm said the building is structurally and physically sound but upgrades to the kitchen and laundry facilities, mechanics and security system are needed.

Canterbury said the authority has $1.3 million dollars to spend on the revitalization efforts. If more money is needed he made a pledge to the group that he would make every effort to find the funds to complete the project.

Other revamping efforts are to include:

- Removal of walls to make housing units larger.

- Conversion of the booking unit area into counseling and administrative offices

- Construction of a maximum security fence to create a prison yard.

Commissioner for the Division of Corrections, Jim Rubenstein, said a possible name for the facility might be Martinsburg Correctional Center. He said he is open to suggestions for a name.

"We have to put an end to the old Eastern Regional Jail reference. It doesn't fit our purpose," he said.

The old jail, built in 1988, was replaced because it was too small to meet the needs of the Eastern Panhandle.

The jail had room for 120 inmates, but at no time in its history were there less than 220 inmates in the facility and at times the population exceeded 300, Canterbury said.

The new Eastern Regional Jail facility opened in 1999 and was designed to hold 300 inmates.

The only intake facilities in the state now are at Mount Olive, the maximum security correctional facility in Charleston, W.Va., and at the correctional facility in Huttonsville, W.Va.

There are 600 on the intake waiting list across the state and the Huttonsville jail has 40 official intake beds, Canterbury said.

The facility in Martinsburg will replace the Huttonsville intake facility and open up space for inmates who need to be in that facility serving their sentence, he said.

Canterbury said individuals who have committed crimes such as murder and first-degree rape, and who are a high-security risk will be taken to the intake facility at Mount Olive because they will more than likely be classified to go to that prison.

"I never go anywhere and make the promise that there won't be any incidents such as escapes, but we have a pretty good record. We will be good neighbors," Rubenstein said.

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