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A question that needs answered quickly

"Something needs to be done to clarify this situation." We couldn't agree more with Harrison County Sheriff Wayne Godwin on the question of jurisdiction at the Salem Industrial Home for Youth.

Something does need to be done, quickly, to decide whether Harrison or Doddridge County law enforcement has jurisdiction at the Industrial Home. Harrison sheriff's deputies have answered calls and made arrests at the home since it opened. But Sheriff Godwin recently learned that inmates at the Industrial Home are actually housed in Doddridge County, since the county line bisects the grounds.

The question of police response isn't the most pressing problem, however. The Harrison and Doddridge county sheriff's departments already have a mutual aid agreement, which means each can respond to calls in the other county.

The most pressing problem is which county's court system will handle cases from the Industrial Home. Harrison County, under the assumption that all of the Industrial Home was inside the county line, has handled inmate cases in the past. But Harrison County has two circuit judges, and will get another one next year, while Doddridge has only one circuit judge. Processing cases from the Industrial Home will cause problems for the smaller county, according to Doddridge County Commissioner Ora Ash. "We are not prepared to take on that responsibility," he told the Telegram.

The jurisdiction question needs to be answered quickly. Residents of Harrison and Doddridge counties who live near the Industrial Home deserve it. Their safety could be at risk if there is any hesitation in police response to escapes, fights or worse at the home. There's also the risk that inmates who commit crimes at the home could go unpunished because of questions of jurisdiction.

Sheriff Godwin has suggested action by the Legislature may be needed to settle the jurisdiction question. Harrison County commissioners say an intergovernment agreement between the counties will be enough. They also say Doddridge officials want a quick resolution as much as Harrison officials do.

We believe that and we urge county officials to make sure it happens.

Tim Langer

Telegram Editorial Board member

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