The issues related to West Virginia’s prison overcrowding problem keep piling up, and the state simply can’t wait to invest at least some extra money if it wants to solve one of them.
Otherwise, the overcrowding will just get worse.
In recent years, as prisons managed by the Division of Corrections reached capacity, more and more inmates under the state’s auspices have been placed in the state’s 10 regional jails, which were meant to hold people who committed lesser crimes or were awaiting trial.
At this point, nearly 1,800 Division of Corrections prisoners are in regional jails, most of them considered lower risk. The regional jails now house nearly 2,000 more prisoners than intended, leading to placing two prisoners in cells designed for only one person.
The complication is that many of those Corrections prisoners in the jails could work toward parole and release from incarceration if only they completed treatment and rehabilitation programs. Trouble is they can’t, because the various programs aren’t available at the regional jails.
The situation was spelled out to lawmakers twice recently. The first time was to the legislative Oversight Commission on Regional Jails and Corrections during the Legislature’s interim meetings. The second was while about 30 legislators and their aides toured the South Central Regional Jail in South Charleston.
The tour was informative to participants, who saw first-hand how cramped the conditions are, according to a report in the Charleston Daily Mail. That’s worth noting, because some officials have warned that if the state doesn’t relieve the crowding, federal courts could step in and order a remedy, such as widespread early release of prisoners.
The state and counties have instituted alternative sentencing programs, and lawmakers are split on whether construction of a new prison at a cost of $120 million to $200 million is needed. But a new prison alone wouldn’t be a complete solution.
Meanwhile, the state should pursue every available option to combat the problem. An obvious one is devising a way to get the needed treatment and rehabilitation programs to inmates in the jail so they can become eligible for parole
— Distributed by The Associated Press