March 08, 2021

The bad and the ugly (good being in short supply): a WV legislative update

As you may have noticed, the WV legislature is in session and the intent seems to be to burn everything down and lock everybody up. My comrade Lida Shepherd recently prepared an exhaustive update on criminal law legislation that is or may soon be in play. It's probably more than you want to know--we wish we didn't know it too! Oh, yeah and probably more bad stuff has been introduced since...and this is only the bad criminal law stuff. Some of the other stuff is as bad or worse. Enjoy!

Criminal Justice Reform Legislative Update  - current as of Friday, March 5th  

Here are the bills we have our eye on… 

Positive bills we support

HB2094.            Ensures restorative justice can be used in any juvenile case when all parties agree    PASSED HOUSE! 

 Needed action: Please contact Senate Judiciary members and ask they support HB 2094 to help advance restorative justice practices in West Virginia.  HB 2094 recognizes the positive impact restorative justice can have for our kids and our communities. And while a lot of work remains to increase capacity to implement these programs, this bill ensures that a restorative justice process will be an option in any juvenile case if all parties agree to participate. 

Read and share “You cannot be tougher on crime than preventing it in the first place- Delegate Graves hopes restorative justice can help offenders” – Gazette-Mail, Feb. 27

 HB2552.            Removes the one-time limit on the expungement of certain criminal convictions

HB2553.            Reinstates the juvenile justice reform oversight committee

HB2305.            Creates a tax credit for hiring people with certain qualifying criminal convictions

HB 2864             Restores voting rights for people on probation or parole

Needed action: More sponsors! 

Other positive bills yet to be introduced but be on the lookout for:

·       “Ban the box” on state job applications

·       Reentry bill to allow for 180 day early release to community supervision and enhanced funding for transitional housing and reentry services

·       Ending felony murder rule for juveniles 

Bills that are THUMBS DOWN

The following we oppose because they either enhance criminal penalties or shift cost burdens of incarceration,  instead of reducing our reliance on incarceration and extended punishment.   

HB2257.            Subjects people convicted of most drug felony crimes with up to 10 years of extended supervision – PASSED HOUSE

Needed action: Contact Senate Judiciary committee members and ask them to not consider HB 2257 

Talking points: I am asking you to please NOT take up HB 2257 in Senate Judiciary, a bill that is NOT smart on crime.  This bill would add up to 10 years of extended supervision for people with drug offenses after they complete underlying sentence, including any period of parole. Violation of the supervision would result in additional incarceration of up to 10 years. HB 2257 is NO JOBS AND HOPE: instead of creating pathways to employment, stable housing, and drug treatment, this bill would subject people to more supervision, strap them with additional fees, and make it more likely that they return to prison. All of this will drive up recidivism, put more strain on families, and cost West Virginia taxpayers more money.  

Read and share “Major Step Backwards for Criminal Justice Reform” – WV Gazette-Mail, March 2nd 

HB2017.            Rewrites the Criminal Code

Read and share WV Criminal Law Reform Coalition blog HB 2017, a massive sentencing rewrite, enhances penalty for over 200 felonies and why we strongly oppose this bill as introduced

HB 2747             Transfers parole board to the Office of Administrative hearings – To Veteran Affairs committee

HB2184.            Increases the penalties for exposure of governmental representatives to fentanyl or any other harmful drug – PASSED HOUSE

HB2253.            Creates new penalty for to forgery and other crimes concerning lottery tickets – PASSED HOUSE

HB2563.            Requires certain municipalities to pay for the incarceration of inmates - To Political Subdivisions then Finance

HB2379.            Makes criminal invasion of privacy a felony  - To the Judiciary

HB2310.            Relates to death penalty for first degree murder  - To the Judiciary then Finance

HB2377.            Apply death penalty for first degree murder of law enforcement officer or first responder - To the Judiciary

HB2273.            Dividing pretrial detention jail costs between arresting authorities - To the Judiciary then Finance

Please also check out WV Criminal Justice Reform Facebook page for news and updates. 

Thanks for your interest!

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