WASHINGTON, D.C. — Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin told a Capitol Hill gathering that West Virginia’s Justice Reinvestment Act has reduced the inmate population in prisons and regional jails by 5 percent during the past year.
The Council of State Governments Justice Center hosted Thursday’s meeting for Tomblin and Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett to tell members of Congress how well justice reinvestment has worked.
“In April 2013 we had nearly 7,100 prisoners in our state and last Thursday that figure was down to 6,743,” Tomblin said. “We’ve reduced overcrowding in our regional jail facilities by nearly 50 percent.”
Tomblin, state corrections officials and state lawmakers worked with the Justice Center during the past two years to put a plan in place that’s aimed at reducing the number of repeat offenders by establishing workforce training programs and community-based substance abuse programs. The program also works through the circuit court system.
Tomblin told those at Thursday’s announcement about the recent awarding of $1.2 million in grants for those community-based drug abuse programs and recovery services.
“This funding is the first step in our plan to reinvest money to fight substance abuse in the Mountain State,” he said. “By identifying and putting commonsense solutions in place we are protecting public safety and our state’s finances at the same time.”
Tomblin said without the new effort the state was looking at building an additional prison that would have cost more than $220 million.
The governor said the message to criminals in West Virginia is they will do their time but “we will take responsible steps to rehabilitate you and give you every opportunity to become a productive member of society again, if that’s a step you are willing to take.”
The National Reentry Resource Center said eight other states have seen reductions in repeat offenders in recent years including Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina and Wisconsin.