The state that has had the greatest increase in prison population growth in recent years—West Virginia—may be exacerbating the problem by failing to properly supervise prison inmates upon release. Legislators in the state recently heard testimony regarding inefficiencies in the parole and reentry processes.
Carl Reynolds of the Justice Reinvestment Initiative informed legislators that the parole process provides necessary supervision and reentry services, such as job training and locating, that can sometimes be the key to desisting from crime. Reynolds noted that West Virginia could create a more efficient and effective reentry process by using risk assessments to properly match ex-offenders to the supervision system best tailored to their level of risk.
Other witnesses discussed West Virginia’s significant drug and substance abuse problems and cited the need for better treatment options. Probation and parole revocations, however, are the leading driver of West Virginia’s prison population growth. Revocations grew 47 percent in the last seven years, at a cost of $168 million.