Public Safety in West Virginia
West Virginia's prison population is growing at one of the highest rates in the nation, with a 73 percent increase from 2000 to 2010. With a prison system already at capacity; the state is forced to send approximately one-quarter of offenders sentenced to prison to be housed in regional jails. The state estimates that if current policies remain unchanged, the continued growth in the correctional population will cost West Virginia taxpayers up to $200 million in construction costs and an additional $70 million annually in operating costs by Fiscal Year 2020.
I got excited about this study because we need to make West Virginia safe. We don't want to close prisons, reduce the number of prisons and then make our people have more crime in their neighborhoods.”
-House Speaker Richard Thompson
Faced with high recidivism rates, limited use of community supervision and treatment programs, and significant fiscal difficulties, West Virginia created a bipartisan, inter-branch Justice Reinvestment Working Group to employ a data-driven approach to contain the rapidly growing size and cost of its prison population. The working group will conduct an analysis of the state's criminal justice data and develop policy options that will increase public safety and reduce corrections spending. The legislature will consider these recommendations when it convenes in February 2013.