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June 14, 2014

Notable indication that "smart on crime" sentencing reform in West Virginia is paying dividends

StsealAs highlighted by this local article, headlined "Governor: Justice Reinvestment Act drops W.Va. jail population by 5%," it appears that another state is having significant success with data-driven "smart-on-crime" sentencing and corrections reforms. Here are the encouraging details:

Although in effect for slightly more than a year, legislation to reduce prison overcrowding by reducing recidivism and substance abuse is having a positive impact, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said during an event Thursday in Washington, D.C.

“Since I signed West Virginia’s Justice Reinvestment Act, we have had a 5 percent reduction in our prison population,” Tomblin said. “In April 2013, we had nearly 7,100 prisoners in our state. Last Thursday, that figure was down to 6,743. We have reduced overcrowding at our regional jail facilities by nearly 50 percent.”

The legislation was enacted in May 2013, after a yearlong study coordinated by the Council of State Governments’ Justice Center, which recommended reducing prison overcrowding with accelerated probation and parole for nonviolent offenders, and better community-based resources for parolees, including substance-abuse treatment programs.

Tomblin told the Washington CSG event that, in April 2013, West Virginia’s corrections system was 1,746 inmates over capacity, a figure that has now dropped to 885. “Today, we have more than 1,000 fewer people in our prisons than what was projected just a few years ago,” Tomblin said. “Without these changes, we expected to have more than 7,800 inmates in West Virginia prisons, compared to today’s total of 6,743.”

Since the passage of the legislation, Tomblin said, the state has continued efforts to reduce re-offense rates with new workforce training programs, assistance in helping parolees find appropriate housing and efforts to ensure access to community-based substance-abuse treatment for those released from prison, funded through Medicaid expansion....

The West Virginia Democrat was joined at the event by Republican Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett, who has overseen similar successes with prison-reform programs in the Keystone State. Corbett noted that, in the 1990s, Pennsylvania was building a new prison nearly every year, as mandatory sentencing laws were causing the state’s inmate population to soar.

Michael Thompson, director of the CSG Justice Center, noted that the national dialogue has changed from a partisan debate over which party could be tougher on crime to a bipartisan effort to be smart on crime, a theme echoed by Tomblin. “I hope other states will consider the justice reinvestment model to take a “smart on crime” approach to prison overcrowding and public safety,” he said.

June 14, 2014 at 12:53 PM | Permalink

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Comments

What is the cost of the alternative programs, and what happened to the crime rate in the immediate vicinity? What was the value of the additional crimes, both direct and collateral, such as drops in real estate prices?

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jun 14, 2014 11:17:18 PM

LOL That WV, a small rural state, tells us much of anything is preposterous. Not to mention, we are talking about a policy that just began implementation barely a year ago.

Posted by: TarlsQtr | Jun 15, 2014 12:38:55 PM

One way CA has reduced recidivism is to do two things. One, they redefined what counted as recidivism. Two, they stopped instituting violations of probation and parole for certain types of violations, including new crimes. The first method will only last until the definition of recidivism cannot be massaged any further. The second? Well here in CA they have tried out something new. No supervision at all. If they are not being supervised then we won't see as frequently when they violate. Viola, look at that recidivism rate go down.

When I see some politician talking about "smart on crime" I see a con job, not a sensible policy discussion.

Posted by: David | Jun 16, 2014 9:10:36 AM

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