WV Supreme Court issues policy for sentencings - Beckley, Bluefield & Lewisburg News, Weather, Sports

WV Supreme Court issues policy for sentencings

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The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals has issued a new policy directive that will give circuit judges more information about persons found guilty of felonies before they impose sentences.

According to the court's news release, the state Supreme Court approved the policy directive at its January administrative conference.

Beginning Aug. 1, each felon in circuit court will be administered a risk and needs assessment test before sentencing.

The results of the assessment would be available for the circuit court judges' consideration before sentencing.

"This change in policy is largely due to the work of the Justice Center," said Steve Canterbury, administrative director of the court.

Canterbury notified justices of the Justice Center's findings. That research helped the court reach the conclusion that judges should have more information when imposing a sentence.

"This assessment gives each judge objective information about the likelihood of the felon re-offending and what needs must be met to prevent such recidivism," Canterbury said in the release.

Probation officers will administer the test, and the results will be included in the pre-sentence investigation reports.

These tests cost approximately $3 each. In 2011, there were approximately 8,000 findings of guilt. The court estimated in the release that training probation officers to administer the test could cost about $25,000.

"Many of our probation officers, such as those who work with treatment courts, have already been trained," Mike Lacy, director of probation services, said in the release. "My staff and I have devised a plan to use a train-the-trainer approach to cut costs, maximize efficiency, and meet the August deadline."