Prosecutor Looks At Ways To Cut County’s Jail Bill
Wetzel County Prosecuting Attorney Tim Haught met with the Wetzel County Commission Tuesday to discuss the possibility of attaining a community correctional grant to provide a means for the county to develop a community-based corrections program which would provide the option of sentencing alternatives to certain criminal offenders and help reduce the increasing regional jail bill.
Haught explained the bill is increasing due to the increasing number of arrests being made, citing that over 100 felonies were filed in Wetzel County Magistrate Court last year. He went on to say police are making more arrests, particularly for possession of small quantities of prescription pills or heroin, in which case those individuals are jailed between 90 days and six months. If those individuals are charged with felonies, they stay in the regional jail until the grand jury meets, and from there many remain in jail during their hearings until they plead or are tried. “All of that time they sit in jail is on the county’s bill,” Haught said.
Haught said he is in the beginning stages of exploring grant and program options. He also said he would like input from the county commission, law enforcement, and the probation office to discuss what can be done to deal with the increase in the bill as well as discuss establishing some sort of drug counseling program to deal with substance abuse-related crimes.
When asked why more drug-related offenders aren’t put on alternative sentencing, Haught explained alternative sentencing such as home confinement simply doesn’t work for drug addicts. “Too often these individuals re-offend,” he said. Drug addicts continue to commit crimes while out on bond or on home confinement to feed their addiction, which is partly why cases last through two or more terms of court, further adding to the county’s costs.
Haught stated the ways to offset the costs of the regional jail bill are to increase the use of home confinement for other offenders and decrease the time criminals are waiting in jail for trials. “I’d like to generate more revenue to offset the jail bill rather than to change the way I prosecute cases because I’m worried about the costs,” Haught underlined.
The commission said if Haught was willing to take the lead to come up with a plan and find grant money, they would find a way to offer their help in matching any funds. Haught said he would continue to explore options such as the community correctional grant and return when he had an update.
Lastly, William Moon, Frontier Communications’ general manager for the northern panhandle, met with the county commission to let them know a New Martinsville office of Frontier Communications will soon be in operation. Moon stated the office, located on Third and Wetzel Street, would be open within the week.