W.Va. making headway in prison overcrowding

An editorial from The Herald-Dispatch

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Signs that West Virginia is starting to ease the pressure on its overcrowded prisons and jails have come from two directions recently. One is looking back to what’s been accomplished over the past year, and the other is looking ahead to another strategy scheduled to be put in place in coming months.

The review of what’s happened came last week from Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin as he spoke in Washington, D.C., at an event sponsored by the Council of State Governments. Lawmakers had approved and Tomblin had signed in the spring of 2013 West Virginia’s Justice Reinvestment Act, a measure aimed at counteracting a burgeoning prison and jail population in the state. The legislation incorporated strategies developed in a yearlong study led by the Council of State Governments’ Justice Center, which had helped several other states out of similar dilemmas without having to build more costly prisons.

Tomblin reported to the gathering that the number of prisoners in the state’s prisons and jails had fallen from almost 7,100 in April 2013 to 6,743 earlier this month, according to a report in The Charleston Gazette. The governor noted that projections from a few years ago forecast the state’s prison and jail population to reach 7,800 by this time…

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