BERKELEY COUNTY, W.Va. (DC News Now) — Governor Jim Justice declared a state of emergency for West Virginia. The reason: not enough correctional officers at state prisons.

This state of emergency comes after governor justice tried to push through a bill to give correction officers in the eastern panhandle a 10,000 dollar raise but, that bill was stalled in the house of delegates.

“During the last legislative period, we had a bipartisan group that we tried to get through to do a regional pay differential to folks in certain areas like the eastern panhandle where the shortages are off the charts,” West Virginia Governor, Jim Justice explained.

The problem has been around for several years but became worse during Covid. Recruiting at the regional jail in Martinsburg right now is a challenge.

“They’re not able to hire people, because of the salary that’s offered, you can almost get paid at sheets for the same amount of money and not have anywhere near the responsibility you would have at a correction facility,” former state senator, John Unger said.

West Virginia homeland security has increased recruitment efforts as well as offered more advancement for the officers they already have.

“The governor issued a state of emergency to bring in some support from the national guard to support the staffing shortage, to help alleviate the staffing shortages,” Unger said.

“In the eastern regional jail and other jails until such time, that it could be addressed on a more permanent basis by making salaries and benefits more competitive.”

Until they recruit more correctional officers, the national guard and police will fill vacant spots.

“It’s really important that we do this right now we’re going to end up with a bad situation that could end up the really bad stuff,” Governor Justice said.

“We’ll continue to try to hire the folks and may have to revisit some type of regional title.”