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Regional jail abuses deserve full attention

At a legislative interim hearing on Monday, lawmakers learned that some regional jail officers have abused inmates - and some others may have covered up these accusations.

One inmate at the Western Regional Jail suffered broken ribs, a collapsed lung and broken vertebrae after a beating, according to Joe DeLong, executive director of the state Regional Jail Authority.

Other corrections officers failed to report these occcurrences. Of the 20 jail authority officers on suspension, 15 work at the Western Regional Jail.

The State Police are investigating.

The use of excessive force is not the only cause of abuse of inmates. In late September, State Police arrested corrections officer William Roy Wilson of Beckley on felony charges of soliciting sex from female inmates at the Southern Regional Jail.

Such abuses can't be tolerated, and it's good that DeLong is rooting them out.

But lawmakers should review the authority's funding as well.

Protecting the public is one of the state's basic obligations. That's why regional jails and prisons exist.

But doing that difficult job responsibly requires adequate funding. The Legislature needs to make sure it's in place.

There is virtually no constituency that demands adequate funding for lockups and the officers who work in them.

That are all kinds of constituencies that would prefer to see the millions spent on corrections directed instead to the programs they cherish.

Officers who abuse inmates deserve prosecution and punishment.

But West Virginia needs to make sure regional jails have the money to do a difficult job right.



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