PARKERSBURG - The new $8.7 million, 130-bed, minimum security Parkersburg Correctional Center opened Monday amid speeches, a flag-raising, a luncheon and tours.
The state purchased the Holiday Inn, which closed in August 2007, for $2.2 million. 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 is complete.
Following a flag-raising ceremony Monday, warden Patrick Mirandy declared the new center open for business. The facility includes a residential substance abuse treatment unit and other rehabilitation services, as well as housing the Parkersburg parole offices.
Photo by Pamela Brust
Jim Rubenstein, commissioner of the West Virginia Department of Corrections, told the local government, judicial, legislative officials and residents gathered for the open house Monday that the facility “will be a good neighbor.”
In an interview with The News and Sentinel Monday, Department of Corrections Commissioner Jim Rubenstein said the center will offer a work release program for inmates.
"There will be about 100 beds for male inmates who will be working with the Department of Highways and in the community. These are the lowest level classification inmates. They are working their way back home. There are 30 beds for males in a residential substance abuse treatment. They will also be minimum security inmates. Once they complete that part of the program, they will be eligible to transfer into the work release side," Rubenstein said.
"It's very important to us as far as successful re-entry of inmates back into their communities. They would otherwise be sitting at a facility waiting for a bed at Beckley, Charleston, Huntington ... sitting at the regional jail, possibly. This way they will be able to receive treatment and counseling they need plus work and earn money. They will end the program with some savings when they go home. They will also be required to pay any ordered restitution, child support, and they pay part of their salary as rent to stay at this facility," Rubenstein said.
Speaking during Monday's ceremonies, Wood County Commission president Blair Couch said there was a collective gnashing of teeth when the community learned of the possibility of a correctional facility coming into the area.
"We wanted to learn more about the facility and invited Commissioner Rubenstein to host a town hall meeting so we could all hear what their plans were, and the plans for this facility are wonderful. The first benefit to the county is creation of jobs, the second was providing an opportunity to integrate people back into our society, to be able to give folks the tools to reintegrate is much needed. We have faith in the leadership and the folks who work here. On behalf of Wayne Dunn, Steve Gainer, myself, and the whole community, welcome to the neighborhood," Couch said.
"Anytime we go into a community, there are eyebrows raised. We want to alleviate any fears or concerns. Our job is to educate and answer questions, and we promise to be a good neighbor," Rubenstein told those attending Monday's open house.
Corrections officials said the center will play an integral part in helping with overcrowding problems in the state's jails and prison facilities.
"The prison population has grown 5.7 percent each year from 2000-2009, making the state nearly 3.5 times higher than the national average. We are trying to find solutions," said West Virginia State Senate President Jeffrey Kessler D-Marshall, keynote speaker for the ceremonies on Monday.
"The good news is we are looking for a solution. The governor has sanctioned a commission to work with the judiciary, executive and Legislature to come up with some recommendations to address these issues, and I submit to you solutions such as this facility are what we need to look to," Kessler said. "We all know this has been in the works for two years. The Legislature has recognized the need for more facilities like this. This new facility provides expanded work release opportunities and programs to attack recidivism problems, to keep folks from reoffending," he said.
"Many of those here will undergo extensive significant abuse treatment and counseling. They also know they have a lot to lose if they reoffend. The state is making changes to sentencing and correctional policies, and alternatives such as this program are less expensive to taxpayers. We are continuing to work to provide better public safety returns for the taxpayers' investment in corrections. There is much work left to be done. This is an important step in providing protection to the public while reducing corrections costs. Corrections can be innovative, corrections can provide adequate and successful treatment for those in these facilities," Kessler said.
Those residing at the work release center will be assessed and screened prior to assignment. No violent offenders, no sex offenders and no inmates with prior sexual offenses will be assigned to the center, according to corrections officials. Those residing at the center will use public transit to their job sites, and will pay for that transportation.
Officials said the center will employ about 43 correctional guards and house six parole officers.
The new warden, Mirandy, has a degree in criminal justice from Marshall University. He began his corrections career in Parkersburg as a parole officer, where he served four years. He was unit manager at the St. Marys Correctional Center four years, then served as associate warden at St. Marys for 11 years before being appointed warden at the new Parkersburg facility.