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Juvenile facility jobs on the line

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- More than 30 jobs hang in the balance as a result of transitioning the Industrial Home for Youth in Salem to an adult prison, despite assurances from the governor's office that wouldn't happen.

The state Department of Education employs 32 people at the facility right now. Spokeswoman Liza Cordeiro confirmed Monday the department has not ruled out eliminating positions.

Attorneys for the state want the facility to close and re-open as an adult prison. Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's office, in coordination with the divisions of Corrections and Juvenile Services, created the plan in response to a judge's order to address concerns with the facility.

When asked if the shift would result in any lost jobs, Tomblin Chief of Staff Rob Alsop said no.

"One of the most important things Gov. Tomblin said was to make sure that those employees have other opportunities and we don't talk about a job loss," Alsop said Friday. "The community does not deserve that."

Confusion and fear of the unknown led employees and local citizens alike to contact Delegate Tim Miley. The Harrison County Democrat represents the area where the facility is located.

After receiving Facebook messages and phone calls from concerned people, Miley said he reached out to the governor's office for answers.

"'Hey, I thought we were led to believe everyone would maintain their job, whether it was at this facility or another facility. Now I'm hearing that that may not be the case,'<#148> Miley said, explaining some of the comments he heard over the weekend.

"Until that question is answered or clarified, it's creating a lot of apprehension and anxiety on the part of the educators that are at that facility."

Monday afternoon he said he had not heard from the office yet but was confident he would receive a reply soon.

Alsop specifically mentioned corrections personnel Friday, but did not discuss other employees. There are more than 150 employed by the Division of Juvenile Services at the facility, according to records provided to the Daily Mail Monday.

But the Division of Juvenile Services has discussed the future of the other employees at the facility ever since it closure became an option, said acting division director Stephanie Boyd.

"That's been a huge concern of ours throughout this whole process," Boyd said Monday in a phone interview.

No one wants anyone to lose his or her job, Bond said. There were concerns with education positions in particular before Friday's announcement though, she said.

As of Friday there were 49 juveniles still at the facility. It has close to 180 beds. Considering the shrinking population, Bond said officials from the department had considered cutting education staff before Friday.

Bond went to the facility Friday morning to break the news to the employees. She was joined by Division of Corrections Commissioner Jim Rubenstein and other corrections personnel. Bond and Rubenstein said Monday their respective divisions were looking into how they could use education staff in the future.

"We're going to do the best to hopefully let everyone maintain employment if they so choose," Bond said.

Some of the educational staff worked with juvenile sex offenders housed in the Harriet B. Jones Treatment Center, Bond said. Although officials would like to move the center, there's no concrete plan in place yet. Bond said the division is hopeful it can find a stand-alone location in Harrison County where it could move those offenders, easing the transition for the juveniles and staff alike.

Maintaining relationships would be ideal, Bond said, adding that the education staff was doing great work with the juveniles at the facility.

Whether a facility is available and contiguous move can happen remains to be seen.

"If all planets align," Bond said. "But there are a lot of moving parts in this plan."

The division is trying to find other locations in the state for the educators, Bond said; she thought a facility in Fairmont might have some openings. Bond and Rubenstein both said there could be the chance for additional training if those employees wanted to stay at the new Salem Correctional Center.  

The division of corrections is still looking at what types of programs it will have at the facility, Rubenstein said.

Many adult prisons lack basic academic skills -- in areas like reading, math or spelling --Rubenstein said. Classes for the General Education Development (GED) certificate are also common, he said.  

"I do know in talking with the adult side of the education department that they will be working with us to identify the number of instructors on educational as well as vocational and any type of staff like that that would be needed to offer the instruction to the 300 to 400 inmates that will be there," Rubenstein said.

Of the 21 employees at the facility classified as teachers now, six are considered vocational instructors and one is an adult basic education teacher. Rubenstein said the division of corrections would be at Salem this week to research the best way to use the facility for adults.

Once that is determined, staff numbers can be decided as well.

Bond said there are also contract employees that provide all medical services at the facility. According to the division website, "PrimeCare Medical provides all health care, physician (at least weekly at every facility), dental and prescription services for all DJS facilities."

Psimed Corrections also has a contract to provide mental health services at DJS facilities, according to the division's website.

Bond specifically mentioned both companies, saying those employed at Salem might also have a problem once the division of corrections takes over.

The governor's office is working to find a solution, Alsop said. The department of education is as well, Cordeiro said.

A town hall meeting is scheduled 5 to 7 p.m. Wednesday at the armory in Salem to discuss the changes, Tomblin spokeswoman Amy Shuler Goodwin said. The transition to an adult facility is expected to be completed by July.

Contact writer Dave Boucher at 304-348-4843 or david.boucher@dailymail.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/Dave_Boucher1.


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