Bills have just been introduced into the West Virginia House and Senate that will significantly affect their juvenile justice system.
Despite the juvenile incarceration rate dropping in almost every state in the past several years, West Virginia is still seeing enormous numbers of youth come through their system. Currently their juvenile incarceration rate is 42 percent higher than any other state in the nation.
These new bills, HB 2641 and SB 393 look at diversion policies for juveniles who have been involved in status offenses – a crime that is classified as such because of the age of the offender i.e. truancy – or misdemeanor offenses. They strengthen alternatives to incarceration such as probation and community service. They introduce a restorative justice program as well. These new innovations show serious promise that West Virginia may eventually turn their juvenile justice system around.