West Virginia jails awarded $400,000 to target assaults behind b - WVVA TV Bluefield Beckley WV News, Weather and Sports

West Virginia jails awarded $400,000 to target assaults behind bars



CHARLESTON, W.Va. _ West Virginia's regional jail system plans to devote a $410,522 matching grant from the U.S. Dept. of Justice toward training staff, educating inmates and providing victims' services to combat sexual abuse and sexual assault.

The Regional Jail and Correctional Facility Authority successfully applied for funds offered to help states implement the U.S. Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA). The grant program supports demonstration projects that establish a “zero tolerance” culture for sexual assault in correctional facilities.

The two-year matching grant will allow West Virginia to develop zero tolerance pilot programs at four regional jails: Eastern (Berkeley County); Southern (Raleigh); Tygart Valley (Barbour); and Western (Cabell). The programs will eventually be expanded to other regional jails statewide, Regional Jail Executive Director Joe DeLong said.

The funding will help each pilot program train staff, review and revise existing policies, educate inmates, develop partnerships with community-based entities to provide victim counseling services and enhance the jails' existing medical and support services to assist incarcerated victims.

“This is just another step in a series of efforts not only to gain 100 percent compliance with the Prison Rape Elimination Act, but also to make sure we're doing everything in our power to make jails a safe place for inmates and staff,” DeLong said.

West Virginia's regional jails have already begun targeting sexual assaults by installing PREA hotlines in every section, establishing a unit specifically to investigate PREA allegations, and assigning that duty as well to the recently formed internal affairs division.

“West Virginia is committed to carrying out the provisions of the Prison Rape Elimination Act, and the successful pursuit of this grant funding reflects that commitment,” said Cabinet Secretary Joseph Thornton of the W.Va. Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety. “I commend Executive Director DeLong and his team for securing the grant and for their other initiatives meant to further the goals of PREA.”

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