State Fact Sheet

Public Safety in West Virginia

After making policy changes to its adult criminal justice system in 2013, West Virginia is analyzing and reviewing its juvenile justice system. In July, Governor Earl Ray Tomblin and legislative leaders formed the West Virginia Intergovernmental Task Force on Juvenile Justice to provide recommendations on how to boost public safety, improve outcomes for youth, and enhance accountability while containing taxpayer costs. The 30-member task force, which is chaired by the governor and consists of legislators; court, juvenile, and education officials; and other stakeholders, will work with The Pew Charitable Trusts to assess the state’s juvenile justice system, data, and policies.

While much of our initial justice reinvestment efforts have focused on addressing our adult corrections system, we must also make every effort to better meet the needs of our youth and prevent them from ever entering our prison system.Governor Earl Ray Tomblin

In 2012, faced with high recidivism rates, a prison population that had increased by 50 percent over the past decade, and projections for an additional 24 percent in growth by 2018, West Virginia formed a bipartisan, interbranch working group of policymakers and other criminal justice stakeholders to develop policies that could improve public safety and offender accountability while controlling corrections costs. In 2013, the state passed justice reinvestment legislation that included policies designed to keep communities safer, hold offenders accountable, and lower rates of recidivism while cutting the costs to taxpayers. The policies, which were signed into law, are expected to avert up to $200 million in construction expenses and $87 million in operating costs from 2014 to 2018. The reforms also will allow the state to reinvest $3 million of the projected savings in substance abuse treatment for people under community supervision in fiscal year 2014. In the first six months, the reforms reduced overcrowding in the regional jail population by 600 individuals and lowered the overall prison inmate population by 300 individuals.