Saturday, September 22, 2012

West Virginia leads nation in prison growth

West Virginia ranks 32nd among states for its rate of putting adults behind bars, but it is leading the nation in prison population growth, reported the West Virginia Gazette

The state's Justice Reinvestment Initiative (JRI) reported that West Virginia has done a poor job matching offenders to the right kind of supervision or services when placing them on probation, on parole or into a community-based corrections program. This improper "sorting" plays a role in the growth the state's prison population when that supervised release is revoked.

Carl Reynolds of JRI said the state also is seeing a rise in violent crime and arrests for such offenses. The study showed that the number of inmates sent back to prison because their release was revoked had increased 47 percent between 2005 and last year. The nearly 5,500 revocation cases tracked by the study cost the state $168 million. Reynolds said this route to prison is starting to outpace regular commitments.

"That's a real driver of what's happening in the system," Reynolds told the Gazette. He added, "We're not saying that all of these revocations should not have happened."

Reynolds also cited the lack of supervision for offenders who "max out" their sentences. Of the 896 such offenders released last year, only about one-fourth had earlier been out on parole that was later revoked. Of the remaining 657 released offenders who were never paroled, nearly two-thirds served terms for property, drug or nonviolent offenses. Without the programs or services that can accompany parole, these people leave prison more likely to commit new crimes, Reynolds told the Gazette.

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