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Jail touted as juvenile detention site

by Paul Darst

STAFF WRITER

Area juveniles who find themselves in trouble with the law now have to look forward to a long ride to a detention center.

North Central West Virginia has no such facilities, meaning youthful offenders must go to Parkersburg, one of the panhandles or south to the coal fields.

But if Harrison County Commissioners have their way, the trip won't be so long in the future. They agreed Thursday to hire a firm to represent them at an upcoming meeting of the state Division of Juvenile Services.

They want Queen & Associates of Charleston to approach the state about using the soon-to-be vacated county correctional center as a new juvenile detention center.

"We could lease the whole thing to the state for the center," commission President Roger Diaz said during the meeting. "Then they wouldn't have to spend millions of dollars on building a new facility."

For several months, commissioners have been considering what to do with the county jail when it closes next year. All prisoners will be transferred to the new Central Regional Jail in Doddridge County when it opens some time next year.

Because Queen & Associates is based in Charleston, he will be able to attend meetings the commissioners cannot, which is why they approved the move.

Such facilities must meet strict state and federal guidelines, said Dallas Staples, of the juvenile services division. Any existing facility would have to meet federal standards for juvenile facilities, he said.

Staples said he did not know of any plans to construct or otherwise establish a new detention center at this time. Division director and deputy director were unavailable for comment Thursday afternoon, Staples said.

Being approached with such a plan is nothing new for juvenile services, he said.

"We have been approached by other counties about jails and other property they have available," he said.

Staff writer Paul Darst can be reached at 626-1404.

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