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Prisoner intake facility opens in W.Va

October 22, 2005|By RICHARD F. BELISLE

waynesboro@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.VA.

From now on, all newly convicted felons in West Virginia, except for the most vicious murderers and serious sex-crime offenders, will make their first foray into the West Virginia state prison system at an intake center in Martinsburg.

The old Eastern Regional Jail on W.Va. 9 and Grapevine Road was converted into the Martinsburg Correctional Center at a cost of $3.5 million.

More than 150 people - correctional officers, local politicians and officials - watched the ribbon cutting Friday afternoon.

Speakers included Gov. Joe Manchin III, State Supreme Court Justice Elliott E. "Spike" Maynard, James W. Spears, cabinet secretary for military affairs and public safety, state Sen. John Unger, D-Berkeley, and state Del. Walter E. Duke, R-Berkeley.

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The original 120-bed Eastern Regional Jail opened in 1989 and was to be a model for a network of regional jails to follow across the state.

The state built a new 300-bed Eastern Regional Jail replacement facility behind the old jail in 2000, leaving the old building vacant.

It stayed that way for five years while several suggestions were made for its use, including a juvenile detention center.

West Virginia's only other prisoner intake facility is in the Mount Olive Correctional Complex in Fayette County. It takes in inmates serving life without parole, said Jim Rubenstein, the state's commissioner of corrections.

All the rest now will come through the new center in Martinsburg.

There, they will be classified, tested and evaluated before they are assigned to a specific state prison, Rubenstein said.

The average inmate stay in Martinsburg will be 45 days, Rubenstein said.

West Virginia has prison beds for 4,100 inmates, Rubenstein said. The current prisoner population is more than 5,000, so prisoners are being housed in regional jails across the state, he said.

As the Panhandle grows in population, the intake center could be converted to a permanent medium-security prison with little renovation, said Steven D. Canterbury, administrative director for the Supreme Court of Appeals.

Maynard called the new intake center "a monument to failure. The people who will come in here are failure. We will look into their souls, then decide the best way to rehabilitate them, to make them better citizens when they come out."

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