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Monongalia Co. officials should reconsider stance on jail

Monongalia County officials are planning to seek exclusion from the regional jail system. It's a decision to which they should give a little more thought.

The county commission agreed last week to write its legislators about the matter. They plan to request the introduction of a bill that would allow Monongalia County to operate its own jail after the North Central Regional Jail opens this summer in Doddridge County.

According to Monongalia County Commissioner John Pyles, it all comes down to jobs -- and keeping them in the county. Pyles has gone on to cite reports that the North Central Regional Jail will be full when it opens.

That seems like a reasonable argument, but it's one that Steve Canterbury, executive director of the West Virginia Jail Authority, says is unfounded. He notes that state law assures jobs to correctional officers on county payrolls when the new regional jail opens. And while the new facility will be operating at near capacity, he says it won't be overcrowded.

But the primary reason Monongalia County should reconsider is because its jails, in all likelihood, do not meet today's design requirements. The Regional Jail Authority was established in the first place to eliminate our state's outdated jails.

Canterbury says that Monongalia officials are welcome to present their case, but notes that such a bill will likely fail. Said Canterbury: "They can certainly present their case to the Legislature, but I have a hard time thinking the Legislature is going to be willing to roll back, even for a single county, the progress that's been made in eliminating substandard facilities."

So do we. And while we agree that Monongalia officials are free to make the request, we also believe that they may very well be wasting their time.

Today's editorial reflects the opinion of the Exponent editorial board, which is comprised of James G. Logue, Kevin S. Courtney, Patrick M. Martin, Nora Edinger and J. Cecil Jarvis.

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