By Stephen Smoot
Governor Jim Justice announced last week that 30 “communities corrections” projects will receive grant funding. Regionally, $190,000 will go to support operation of the South Branch Day Report center serving Pendleton, Hardy, and Hampshire counties.
As Governor Justice explained, the funds support “community-based corrections programs to provide the judicial system with sentencing alternatives for those offenders who may require less than institutional custody.”
Last week, the Pendleton County Commission heard a detailed report on how the Day Report Center operates from executive director Darren Taylor.
Taylor has served in that role since January of 2022. At the time, he started with 20 clients. Now the center serves 100, which he counted as a substantial improvement. Taylor previously served in a federal law enforcement capacity and shared that “trying to help and keep them out of jail is new to me,” but very rewarding as well.
Day Report Centers work with non violent offenders whose criminal acts stem from drug use and/or addiction. According to a Department of Health and Human Resources “provider manual” covering the topic, the centers “are responsible for carrying out the dual purpose of imposing sanctions on and providing services to offenders. From this dual purpose stems the over-achieving responsibility of supervising the offender in the community.”
The goal of the program lies in “providing offenders with the necessary structure and guidance to facilitate a productive transition of re-entry into the community. This facilitation involves both sanctions and services.”
With regional jail bills a headache for every county in the state, programs that supervise non violent offenders and hold them to account help to lighten the financial burden. They also allow offenders to maintain employment and, when appropriate, stay with their family support systems as they seek to improve their lives.
Taylor admits that the program did not receive the full support requested, but added that its “not a total loss that we didn’t get what we asked for.” referrals from DHHR and parole boards have increased with each participant bringing funding with them.
“We’re very rural with all three of our counties,” Taylor told the Pendleton County Commission. Rural services always include challenges with those who live in remote locations with limited access to transportation.
He also explained the vital importance of services delivered to the recovery of addicts. “Therapy is key,” Taylor stated, adding that “we try to reach them through therapy” and other community services to keep clients out of jail. He named Potomac Highlands Guild as one of the important organizations partnering with Day Report to fill needs.
Taylor also shared that the center earned a federal grant to pay for three part-time aides. Each work 20-25 hours per week. He said that “we are doing pretty well on the sustainability front. The staff includes an LPN hired specifically for telehealth virtual meetings. Those meetings cease in July, due to inferior results compared to face-to-face visits, but Taylor shared that he would make every effort to keep the nurse on.
The grant also pays for screenings of applicants. With limited resources, Day Report can only take in those who are appropriate for the level of help provided. Taylor explained that “sometimes people are too far gone and need immediate medical care.”
He added that many addicts have too many substances affecting their systems for Day Report to serve as the right program fit.
Many in the community confuse Day Report with drug court or think they are the same program. Drug court has a more intensive set of programs designed for more severe addicts and self-destructive behaviors. Day Report, however, does provide crucial support and is a vital partner for the drug court program.