West Virginia’s Republican state legislature approved more than $21 million in pay increases for corrections officers and bonuses for other staff Tuesday, the Associated Press reports. The legislation includes policies meant to lessen the burdens on jail and prison workers. The same day, a lawsuit was filed against Gov. Jim Justice and other state leaders over working conditions in the state’s regional jails and prisons. The spending bills were passed during a special session called by Justice this week, a year after he declared a state of emergency and called on the state National Guard to help stop worker attrition at jails and prisons. Justice previously declared a state of emergency for the state’s jails and prisons in 2017.
Action on the bills came as a federal lawsuit was filed Tuesday seeking to force the state to spend $330 million to improve prison and jail conditions and fill worker vacancies. The lawsuit alleges “inhumane living conditions” in the correctional facilities and accuses Justice and others of ignoring overcrowding and failing to provide regular funding for upkeep. Lawmakers approved over $21 million for correctional officer pay increases, and two one-time bonuses of $2,294 for jail staff who are not correctional officers, like kitchen staff. One payment will come immediately, and another six months later. The total cost of the bonuses will be around $71,127.