Correctional Center has new warden

PARKERSBURG – With nearly 15 years experience in corrections, Anne Thomas is the warden at the Parkersburg Correctional Center.

The minimum security $8.7 million, 130-bed facility opened in the summer of 2012 with speeches, flag-raising, luncheon and tours. The state purchased the Holiday Inn for $2.2 million. The inn closed in August 2007. The facility is located on a hill overlooking I-77 and U.S. 50. After two years of planning and $6.5 million in construction costs, the work release facility was completed.

When the center opened the warden was Patrick Mirandy. He is now the warden at St. Marys Correctional Center, and effective Sept. 1, 2012, Anne Thomas became the new warden at the Parkersburg Correctional Center.

Thomas said operations are going smoothly, and officials have received positive feedback from the community.

“There were just the usual operational challenges when you open any new facility,” Thomas said.

The new warden began her corrections career at the Mount Olive Correctional Complex, became associate warden of Programs at Lakin Correctional Center. After that she served as Director of Classification at the central department of the West Virginia Department of Corrections before taking on her current responsibilities at the Parkersburg facility.

The facility has capacity for 130, with 100 of those beds for work release inmates. The substance abuse treatment facility, which is also housed at the facility, has 30 beds. Those residing at the work release center are assessed and screened prior to assignment. No violent offenders, no sex offenders and no inmates with prior sexual offenses are assigned to the center, according to corrections officials.

“The 30 inmates in the substance abuse treatment program are not in work release yet. They are also classified low risk. They must successfully complete the treatment program and once they have done that they can come to work release status,” Thomas said.

Part of the facility is occupied by Parole Services.

The work release program officially began receiving inmates on August 29, 2012.

“We’ve been fortunate to have had positive responses in the community with our community service and employment and we are very grateful to groups within the area including Workforce West Virginia for their assistance. We had a job fair here with Workforce West Virginia’s assistance. We have worked with them to get employment services to aid the inmates in finding employment. Some businesses in the community provided placements. The job fair also provided an opportunity for the inmates to acquire interviewing skills,” Thomas said. “They are to be honest when applying for a job, letting their potential employer know their situation. So far we haven’t had any negative feedback.”

Inmates in the work release program are required to perform 80 hours of community service prior to looking for employment. Community service opportunities for the inmates have included a variety of options.

“We have been fortunate to work with the Wood County Historical Society. Inmates assisted in cleaning up cemeteries in the Belleville area in conjunction with the society. They worked for St. Paul’s United Methodist Church helping serve community lunches. At Good Shepherd Episcopal Church, inmates participated in community cleanup projects. At the Humane Society of Parkersburg, inmates cleaned cages, walked dogs, worked with special need animals and through recycling and donations, one of the inmates paid the adoption fees for two dogs. At the Salvation Army, inmates helped prepare and serve Thanksgiving dinner and assisted with Christmas and Angel Tree projects. To this point, they have over 6,000 hours,” Thomas said.

The warden said the opportunities give inmates the chance to give back to the community.

“A percentage of the inmates’ work income goes to help defray their cost of incarceration. The inmates are also required to pay a portion of their salary for any child support, court costs or fines and restitution they may owe,” Thomas said. “Some of them enroll in college classes or try to complete their GED if they don’t have their high school diploma while they are here.”

With an eye to rehabilitation of offenders, Thomas said efforts are made to meet the inmates’ needs through the programming. The maximum time in the program is 18 months. The inmates who are working have jobs on West Virginia Department of Highways crews, in construction, retail, at area restaurants as cooks, cleaning tables, as mechanics.

“If they have specific skills, we try to match those with the job,” she said.