February 16, 2014

A small step in the direction of sanity

One encouraging trend in West Virginia these days--and there actually are a few, believe it or not--is a move away from the mindless tendency to lock people up whether there's a compelling reason to do so or not. Last year, the legislature passed Gov. Tomblin's prison overcrowding bill, which took some modest steps in that direction.

Thanks to a Republican-introduced amendment, the bill actually was strengthened by mandating drug courts in all counties by 2016. The decision to expand Medicaid will also mean that tens of thousands of people will have access now to treatment for substance abuse. Substance abuse, one way or another, is a factor in most prison sentences in the state.

The WV Senate last week passed another small but significant bill that could address the overcrowding issue. It would allow for pre-trial release for low-risk offenders. This would reduce crowding in regional jails, which are already filled to overflowing with inmates who should be held in the state's prison system, which offers more of the programs needed for parole.

Last year, a similar bill passed the Senate but was killed in the House after a public hearing dominated by the bail bond "industry." Fortunately, the WV House is under new management this year and I hope they concur with the Senate in this common sense step.

WHATEVER HAPPENED TO WE? Here's Robert Reich on a certain American problem.

MOVE TO IMPROVE. Here's yours truly in support of proposed WV legislation that would mandate physical activity for the state's schoolchildren.


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