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Jail may be utilized as holding facility

by Paul Darst

STAFF WRITER

Part of the Harrison County Correctional Center might be used as a temporary holding facility after the North Central Regional Jail opens next year.

And area law enforcement officials are glad to hear that they might have such a lock-up at their disposal.

A committee charged with finding a new use for the county jail, which will close when the new regional facility opens, is considering using part of one floor to temporarily house people arrested in Harrison County.

"We're looking at using part of it as a 24-hour holding facility so one trip a day will do it," Sheriff Wayne Godwin said Friday.

Godwin is part of the jail committee, which is chaired by County Commissioner Beth Taylor. Democratic Sheriff's nominee Jim Jack, who is unopposed in the fall election, also was invited to be part of the committee, Godwin said.

State law allows counties to have up to a 72-hour holding facility for prisoners, Godwin said.

Without a temporary holding facility, area police would have to transport each person they arrest to the new regional jail near West Union. That trip takes about a half-hour one way from Clarksburg.

But corrections officers from the new regional jail will make one trip each day to each county in the area that has such a facility to pick up prisoners, Godwin said.

Maintaining a holding facility in the county will help area police agencies. Most departments in the county only have a handful of officers on duty at any one time.

Taking one or two of them off the streets to process prisoners, then transport them to Doddridge County will leave those forces short-handed.

"We usually process prisoners here (at police headquarters), then take them to the jail," Clarksburg Police Chief John Walker said. "That can take anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour, depending on what we need to do. We might have to interview the person."

With no temporary county facility, officers would have to take time to drive to the regional jail, process the prisoner, then drive back.

With at least an hour of driving time, that means the booking and transportation process could take two to three hours.

During that time, at least one officer would be off the streets, Walker said. In some cases, like after a dangerous person is arrested, it would be necessary to take two officers off the streets, he said.

The new jail could increase expenses for area departments too, if a temporary cell is not available, Walker said. Besides using more gasoline for transporting prisoners, officers could be forced to work more overtime, he said.

If, for example, an officer on day shift makes an arrest at 2 p.m., the booking and transporting process might not be over at 4 p.m. when the shift ends.

But a temporary holding facility will prevent that from happening, and possibly save area police forces money, Godwin said.

The jail committee has considered recommending the Harrison County center be used to house federal prisoners or juvenile offenders once it closes. A temporary holding facility there likely would not affect such plans since it would take up only part of one floor, Godwin said.

Staff writer Paul Darst can be reached at 626-1404 or by e-mail at pdarst@exponent-telegram.com.

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