On July 1, the West Virginia Division of Juvenile Services will no longer be in control of the Industrial Home for Youth. The facility will be turned over to the Division of Corrections and become Salem Correctional Center.
"We currently have 1,800 Division of Corrections' inmates sitting in our jail system. This will give us the opportunity to move 300 or 400 adult inmates out of the jail system and put them in the custody of the Division of Corrections," said Joseph Thornton, West Virginia Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety Cabinet Secretary.
Right now the IHY is equipped to hold 178 juveniles; however, only 49 are there. After a lawsuit questioning the building's conditions to be used as a juvenile treatment center, it was determined that moving the youth elsewhere would be more beneficial. Then, it could be used to house 300 to 400 minimum to medium security adult offenders.
"The murder, the serious sex crimes and things of that nature, those individuals will not make it to a facility like this," said Jim Rubenstein, Commissioner of West Virginia Division of Corrections.
There were a lot of concerns about the change.
"At first it was a little scary because we didn't know what they were doing but after speaking with officials here and seeing that it's going to be a step-down unit, actually the offenders that will be here are less violent than the ones that are already here at the present time, so I don't see a problem with the transition," said Salem Police Chief Al Swiger.
The juveniles will be monitored during the transition period.
"We don't want to put anybody at risk or anybody at danger but we're just going to try to meet their needs as best we can. Assessments will be done on all the juveniles here and we will place them according to those assessments and their needs," said Stephanie Bond, Acting Director of West Virginia Division of Juvenile Services.
While their needs may be better met elsewhere, some said this facility will still meet plenty of other needs.
"It's going to be a big relief to our regional jail system which is what they're seeking and they want to keep the facility open. They want the people to keep their jobs, and as they indicated today, everybody's going to be working and the place is going to be better for everybody," said Doddridge County Commissioner Ralph Sandora.
A town hall meeting will be held at the Salem Armory on Wednesday, March 20 at 5 p.m. Everyone is welcome to come share their concerns and learn more about the change.