As the law currently stands, West Virginia will be asked to come up with $340 million dollars between 2014 and 2018, all to handle an increased prison population.

Fortunately, West Virginia officials are seeking to avoid these costs with smart-on-crime reforms that will stymie the increase in prison populations while better protecting the public safety.

Those reforms include a research-based risk and needs assessment that felons will undergo prior to sentencing. This assessment will provide necessary information to the judge that will aid in sentencing offenders to the most effective placements. In fact, the Supreme Court is administratively implementing these assessments in West Virginia this year.

Other reforms include an increased investment in substance abuse and addiction treatments. In West Virginia, as elsewhere, substance abuse issues often underlie criminal behavior. In those cases, attacking the substance addiction can halt future criminality far more cheaply and effectively than a mere prison sentence.

In addition to more effective probation, these proposals are positioned to prevent West Virginia from being forced to raid taxpayer’s wallets for an additional $340 million.