West Virginia's prisons and regional jails have - well, two problems: Legitimate suits over sexual assaults by guards, and spurious claims filed by inmates and lawyers seeking damages.
Together, as Daily Mail Capitol Reporter Zack Harold explained Monday, these challenges have cost state taxpayers almost $12 million in 10 years.
Between 2003 and 2013, the state paid $5.1 million to prisoners and their lawyers in settlements and fees It spent $6.6 million more to defend against sexual misconduct claims.
Average cost of defending a case: about $26,000.
Joe DeLong, executive director of the jail authority, calls it right down the line on abuses by all parties.
"We still have too many of them [suits]," he said. "And we still have too many of them that have a basis of merit as well," he told Harold.
To their credit, the state Division of Corrections and the Regional Jail Authority are doing an admirable job of addressing the problems, but it is not easy.
Sometimes, poorly trained officers cross the line. Sometimes, inmates induce them to do so in an attempt to get money damages.
And there is reason to believe that some lawyers recruited inmates to file claims to get a percentage of the awards - a racket, with taxpayers as the target. The state's Lawyer Disciplinary Board filed charges against Huntington lawyer Kerry Nessel, alleging he brought frivolous suits against the Division of Corrections and solicited business from inmates at Lakin Correction Center. The case will be heard in October.
What a mess. What a difficult management problem.
But what a professional job by Corrections and the Jail Authority to manage the abuses by all parties - guards, inmates and lawyers.
Some state jobs are so difficult that taxpayers should take off their hats to the people who do them.