CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) — Lawmakers and criminal justice activists came together to share experiences with the West Virginia criminal justice system and ideas on how they can improve it in a bipartisan way.
“I think we incarcerate people for the wrong reasons, but I think we don’t incarcerate certain people for reasons they should be incarcerated,” said Delegate Moore Capito, (R) Kanawha County.
According to Vera Institute, in 2020, West Virginia was the only state in the country to increase the jail population. Though jails and prisons are still overcrowded, lawmakers wanted to highlight previous criminal justice reform bills’ success.
“And now we have this program, the jobs and hope program which is working so well because the vast majority of people who work there are actually in recovery themselves,” said Mike Pushkin, (D) Kanawha County.
Looking ahead to the upcoming legislative session, lawmakers want to focus on certain aspects of the state’s criminal justice system.
“To create a reentry program based on the federal model. A lot of people don’t know West Virginia does not have a real re-entry program,” said Pushkin.
Lawmakers want to create a program to help people after their release and plan to do it by working with the community.
But members of local police forces say they want to be included in the conversation as well.
“How about we all get together we have an honest and open discussion about it because at the end of the day you can reform anything you want to but we have to deal with it. Law enforcement are the ones that have to deal with the changes,” said Putnam County Sheriff Bobby Eggleston.
Sheriff Eggleston says law enforcement needs to work hand in hand with the judicial system to make improvements.
Lawmakers plan to resent these reforms to the West Virginia legislature on February 10.