Effective July first, 49 juveniles from the West Virginia Industrial Home for Youth in Salem will move out, and up to 400 adults will move in. The facility, which sits in Harrison County, will undergo some changes, but it's already set up to safely secure those inmates. Still, a town hall meeting was held Wednesday night in Salem to fill people in on the changes.
More than 100 people came to the meeting. There were a few residents in the audience, but most were either public officials or employees.
"I would like to say 'not in my front yard', but I can see it's going to be done regardless of what the people feel," said one resident.
That's what one resident had to say, who lives close by the facility. Many asked questions about the safety of the community, job loss, and property value.
"I think it is a win-win situation for the city, and I think it's a win-win situation for the Department of Correction and the employees at the industrial home, because the only alternative was to shut the thing down completely," said Chief of Police, Al Swiger.
One official calls the compound a perfect fit in terms of an option. "The juveniles that are currently housed there have done probably worse crimes than the males that will be there in the adult setting," said Joseph Thornton, cabinet secretary.
The Chamber of Commerce is glad to know that although some of the teachers may fall under Reduction in Force, according to Kevin Fluahrty of the city chamber of commerce, about 165 jobs will be saved and even more employment opportunities may come.
"Of course we look forward to economic development - we've even discussed at one of the community meetings we had Monday - they even discussed a hotel because we have the Marcellus shale drilling, we have the university on a great footing, making great strides and we have now, the Department of Corrections in town," said Fluahrty.
Many Salem officials are happy to see the changes. "It affects the entire region so it's a positive impact regionally," said Mayor Bobby Samples.
They're also happy the city may have some extra volunteer hands. "The Division of Corrections with their lower class inmates does a lot of community hours state wide and it usually saves communities a lot of money," explained Thornton.
The entire facility is being inspected, so any problem areas will be addressed. The current employees have about three months to be trained on how to handle the new inmates. There may also be a 24/7 residential substance abuse treatment program on the property.
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