PHILIPPI - The unemployment count of Barbour County Community Corrections program participants appears to be on the rise, Director Matt Bennett reported this week.
Bennett provided information about the changes he has noticed in the program - including the unemployment rate - to Barbour County Commissioners at their regular meeting Monday.
"One thing I've been noticing is the unemployment is starting to go up a lot," Bennett said. "About 71 percent right now of people on Community Corrections are unemployed."
Bennett said Community Corrections has attempted to find employers who are willing to hire someone who has either a criminal background or a case pending against them.
"We tried that employment thing where I sent the intern out to talk to all the area employers, but we didn't really have much luck," Bennett said. "Unemployment is starting to be kind of a bigger issue."
Bennett said that the program currently supervises about 53 individuals, which also is an increase. More individuals on parole are being required to enter programs like Community Corrections, so he is seeing more of those individuals, Bennett said.
Bennett also said the program's grant funding for next year could be facing a 7.5 percent cut. He said he is thinking ahead about grants for next year and asked the commission to match funds for a state grant, as is typically done each year.
Under that configuration, the county would be required to match 30 percent of the grant funds received by the state. The commission approved a match in grant funds for the Community Corrections program in the amount of $50,814. Bennett said the match only would have to be $45,312, but because of the program's needs, he asked for the larger amount.
"That's what we got last year, and that's all we need this year," Bennett said. "The budget ran really smooth this year. We haven't had any trouble. We're looking to come pretty much right on the money. The numbers I ran - we were going to have maybe a couple hundred dollars extra."
Bennett also asked for materials for Community Corrections assistant Richard Cox. He requested a bag in which Cox can carry drug testing equipment or other needed materials. He also asked for a labeled jacket to identify the assistant.
Bennett said a police officer recommended that Cox also carry handcuffs and pepper spray, and that Cox would need certification to do so.
The Commission voted to order handcuffs and pepper spray for Cox, who will need to receive proper training before being permitted to carry those items. Bennett said he will ask the Philippi Police Department if an officer is authorized to provide training for Cox.
The next meeting of the Barbour County Commission is scheduled for 5 p.m. March 3.
Contact Melissa Toothman by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.