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How Will the New Prison Overcrowding Bill Help Our Jails?
Written by Your 5News Team
Last updated on March 04, 2013 @ 12:42PM
Created on March 02, 2013 @ 6:34PM

More and more people are behind bars in the mountain state than ever before, and that number has been increasing for the past ten years. The state's incarceration rate is now three times the national average.

More violent crime arrests and releasing offenders without supervision are a couple of reasons why. That's why Governor Earl Ray Tomblin has proposed a new bill to combat these problems.

The bill would mean that non-violent offenders are released up to six months early. They would have to be in a supervised release program, though. Violent offenders would be released as scheduled, but also have to be in a supervised program for up to a year.

That's because many of them are addicted to drugs. Because they're not being fully rehabilitated and they keep committing the same crimes, putting them back behind bars.

Now, the only problem with this is the cost of a substance abuse program. But, it might not be as bad as you think. The state estimates $1,000 to $7,000 for one person to go through drug rehab. It costs $24,000 to house an inmate in our state for a year. It's also cheaper than the alternative of building a new prison, which would cost about $200 million.

In response to the new legislation, Administrator of Tygart Valley Regional Jail Scott Villers said, "They're working on things, alternative sentencing, the community day report centers are very successful. They are helping out tremendously. "

He added,  "Every jail is overcrowded. It hasn't really gotten any better yet. The solutions are going to be long term. We have programs here to reduce recidivism. They're trying programs at the Division of Corrections as well. But it's a multi-faceted approach to reducing."

Without these changes, it's estimated that the prison population will grow by another 24 percent in five years.

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