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Insist on Prison Plan Results Soon

February 24, 2013
The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

West Virginians cannot wait until 2018 to learn whether we have found a formula to curb overcrowding in prisons and regional jails. So if legislators approve a plan to get the problem under control, they should monitor it closely.

If measurable, believable results are not apparent within one year, state officials should go back to the drawing board.

Our state has one of the worst prison overcrowding situations in the nation. Every bed at state prisons is filled. As many as 1,800 convicts who ought to be in those facilities are lodged instead at regional jails - which, as a result, also are packed.

Lawmakers have received the draft of a plan to address the problem. It includes better substance abuse treatment, better supervision of convicts released after doing their time, to reduce recidivism; and expanded community corrections programs such as day report centers.

Proponents of the plan say it should stabilize the prison population by 2018. But that is five years from now, and if substantial progress is not made before then, the state risks intervention by a federal judge.

If legislators approve the proposal, then, they should condition it on progress of some sort within the next year. If that does not happen, another approach will have to be undertaken.

 
 

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