ELKINS - M. Scott Villers, administrator for the Tygart Valley Regional Jail, addressed the Elkins Rotary Club Monday about some of the changes and new improvements at the facility.
Villers was assigned to TVRJ as administrator in November 2011, after serving as acting administrator. Since then, TVRJ has seen some major changes including more than 50 newly hired staff.
The facility also began housing the majority of female state Division of Correction inmates waiting to be removed to the prison system.
One of the biggest additions to the facility itself is a new and improved surveillance system that monitors the inmates for the majority of the time they are out of their cells. The system increases the number of cameras in the facility from a mere four to 117 motion-detecting cameras that are placed throughout the facility, including the mess hall, the lobby and places of work. The live feeds of the cameras are streaming online and recorded for constant surveillance.
"The obvious implication of a larger surveillance system is that the inmates know that we are watching them," Villers said. "This means that there are fewer incidents and less violence."
Villers said that one of the biggest issues that the facility, which serves Barbour, Pocahontas, Preston, Randolph, Taylor, Tucker and Upshur counties, is dealing with its overcrowding.
"When I left to come here today, we were housing 499 inmates," Villers said. "The facility is designed to house only 300."
Villers said the 10 regional facilities in the state were designed to serve all 55 counties, because many of the county facilities throughout the state were not up to standards. And with an estimated $900,000 cost to house the inmates in the county per year, according to Randolph County Commissioner Mike Taylor, Villers said that overcrowding is a problem.
"One of the things that we've discovered is that lack of education and illiteracy have a huge impact on the corrections system," Villers explained. "We offer a GED program that is wildly successful, so much so that there's a waiting list. We offer four classes per day, with 16-20 inmates per class. And we are looking to expand those programs to accommodate the demands based on their popularity."
Contact Chad Clem by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.