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West Virginia Mulls Sentencing Reform

| February 27, 2012

West Virginia, facing overcrowded prisons and an outsized corrections budget, is considering legislation that would provide alternative sentencing options.

The state is second in the nation in the percentage of general funds spent on corrections, and costs have doubled in the last decade. Overcrowding has led corrections officials to request $200 million to build another prison, a move legislators are seeking to avoid.

The new legislation focuses on effective reentry that includes transitional housing, a parole process in county-funded regional jails, and drug or mental health treatments as alternatives to prison time. The legislation also focuses on using swift-and-sure parole revocations, rather than lengthy and protracted proceedings.

One bill also calls for increasing property transfer fees to provide additional funding for corrections. With better corrections strategies and cost-efficient sentencing options, however, it should not be necessary to increase fees on West Virginia citizens.

West Virginia’s governor, Earl Ray Tomblin, is also seeking input from the Council of State Governments Justice Center, which has worked on prison reform issues in dozens of other states, including Texas.

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