Within in the last year, Randolph County-based North Central Community Corrections has doubled the number of counties it serves and grant funding from the Department of Criminal Justice Services.
At the end of June, NCCC Executive Director Travis Carter and Randolph County Chief Magistrate Mike Riggleman accepted a $400,000 grant that translates into rehabilitation for offenders sentenced to the program and safer communities. Currently, six counties participate in the NCCC program. When the new fiscal year began in July, Preston, Taylor and Pocahontas counties joined Randolph, Barbour and Tucker counties to form one of three regional community corrections programs in West Virginia. The other community corrections programs serving five or more counties are based in Ohio and Mercer counties.
The three additional counties joined NCCC because of a reputation for holding individuals accountable and providing more than services that are similar to a "day care," Carter explained.
Each county, with the exception of Tucker, has its own community corrections office. However, being part of the NCCC program, Carter oversees operations in each of the counties. He said he is proud that the central office is located in Randolph County because of the strict guidelines it originally established for offenders. Tucker County operates from the Randolph County office because the number of offenders does not warrant its own office. Other counties recognized the Randolph County program guidelines and asked that their community corrections guidelines become similar.
Circuit and magistrate court judges determine if someone convicted is sentenced to a community corrections program, and with their support and confidence, the NCCC program continues to expand. The Randolph County program began in 2005, when Circuit Court Judge John Henning created it and tapped Carter to lead. Current Randolph County Circuit Court Judge Jaymie Godwin Wilfong has continued Randolph County's participation and championed the expansion into other counties. Magistrates Riggleman, Rob Elbon and Ben Shepler have also been supportive of the program, Carter said.
In addition to working with Circuit Court Judges Wilfong of the 20th District, Alan Moats, 19th District, Lawrance Miller Jr., 18th District and James Rowe and Joseph Pomponio Jr., both 11th District, the NCCC has a positive relationship with state offices in Charleston. There have also been talks of Greenbrier County joining NCCC at a later date.
"I've seen a lot of success. If somebody is serious about rehabilitation and getting themselves back on track, this is the place to come."
Although Carter "shot for the moon" and requested $900,000 from the DCJS, he said he is pleased with the $400,000, which was the largest grant funding increase of any community corrections operation in the state.
The NCCC board of directors distributed the $400,000 among the serviced counties for operational expenses. In addition to the grant funding, county commissions contribute a 20 percent cash match of the money allotted to the respective county. Due to the number of offenders, the Randolph County operation received $169,000 of the grant.
On average, the number of offenders participating in each of the county programs are 60 in the Randolph/Tucker counties, 25 in Barbour County, 20 to 25 in Preston County, 25 in Taylor County and 23 in Pocahontas County.
The NCCC focuses on accountability and rehabilitation by offering an after hours program that begins after 5 p.m. with parenting, individual therapy and GED classes.
During the 2008-2009 fiscal year, offenders from Randolph, Tucker and Barbour counties logged 30,059 community service hours. Those hours were completed at local organizations and government bodies, such as the city of Elkins, Randolph County Humane Society, Randolph County Community Arts Center and Randolph County Board of Education. Services by the community corrections program are not available to individuals or for-profit businesses.
Community service hours are not a form of punishment, Carter says. Instead, he said it is a way for offenders to give back to the community and interact with law enforcement and others who can be a positive influence for those involved with program.
Although there are those who do not complete the program, there are also success stories. Carter says family members of those in the program tell him they have seen a difference in their loved one. Those in the program must find a job, complete community service hours and attend after hours sessions, such as parenting or GED classes, anger management or narcotics or Alcoholics Anonymous.
"I've seen a lot of success," Carter said. "If somebody is serious about rehabilitation and getting themselves back on track, this is the place to come."
The program is only offered to those who are motivated, and if NCCC staff members think the offender is a threat to the community the individual is then incarcerated, Carter explained. Objectives of the program include ensuring those in the program are employed and keep structure in their lives. Until the NCCC participant finds a job, they must complete 40 hours of community service each week and still complete eight hours of service when employed.