In the early 1980s, the seeds of the Western Region Jail Association were sown when a visionary group of correctional leaders gathered to form the Western Virginia Chief Correction Officers Association in 1982. The founding members, a distinguished group comprising George Keyes from Montgomery County, Steve Huff from Roanoke County, Rodney Scott from Pulaski County, Betty Vaught from Wythe County, Tommy Levell from Radford City, and Yvonne Hoefle from the Pittsylvania County Jail, shared a common commitment to the enhancement of correctional practices within the region.
Operating as an exclusive and intimate association, these six pioneers convened every three months to engage in discussions that aimed to improve and standardize correctional procedures. Their dedication to excellence and collaboration laid the foundation for a transformative journey that would shape the future of correctional professionalism in the western Virginia region.
After five or six years of these focused and productive meetings, H. T. Leary, recognizing the potential for broader impact, advocated for expanding the association’s reach. Leary emphasized the importance of opening the doors to all correctional professionals and aligning with industry standards. This pivotal decision marked the evolution of the Western Virginia Chief Correction Officers Association into the Western Region Jail Association (WRJA).
With a renewed vision and commitment to inclusivity, WRJA emerged as a dynamic entity that sought to bring together correctional professionals from diverse jurisdictions. The association’s focus expanded to encompass comprehensive training and development initiatives, aiming to elevate the knowledge, skills, and standards of all its members.
Over the years, WRJA has evolved into a cornerstone of excellence in the corrections field, fostering a culture of continuous learning, innovation, and collaboration. The legacy of those six founding members, alongside the foresight of H. T. Leary, continues to inspire the association’s mission to this day, as WRJA remains dedicated to advancing the professional development of correctional professionals throughout the western region.