The threat of punishment is designed to promote good behavior.
Failure to pay court-ordered child support is obviously a crime that West Virginia, like all states, must address.
However, the current form of punishment — sending the offender to jail — is simply not working. In fact, in many cases, it’s making matters worse. That topic was discussed at a West Virginia Senate committee on child poverty on Wednesday.
The discussion, The Associated Press reported, is likely to lead to legislation that will have bipartisan support.
The Rev. Matthew Watts, a community leader from Charleston’s West Side, described a situation where a parent fails to pay child support, is sent to jail and loses any source of income he may have had.
Then the child has no hope of getting support.
“We just always think that punishing somebody is going to get them to change their behavior,” Watts said. “What we’re doing is we’re punishing the innocent person. We’re taking their parent away from them ... the child is already poor, right? The family doesn’t have any money and then we’re gonna literally put their mother or father in prison or in jail.”
Under West Virginia law, someone found to willfully fail to pay child support can be sentenced to jail for up to six months, or until the debt is paid, whichever comes first. In most cases, with the offender in jail and unable to work, the debt simply continues to add up.
If a debt goes unpaid for a year, failure to pay child support can become a felony, and a person is sentenced to one to three years in prison.
Sentences, according to the AP, vary widely across the country — from 45 days in North Carolina to 14 years in Idaho.
A former judge and current legislator believes the current law is unacceptable.
“I’ve sent people to the penitentiary because of that, and there’s got to be a better way,” Sen. Donald Cookman said. “We also pay to incarcerate them and take care of their children. This really needs to be rethought as quickly as it can be rethought.”
Prison reform is a major piece of Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s agenda this legislative session.
The West Virginia Senate unanimously passed a bill Thursday that aims to improve public safety and ease overcrowding in the state’s filled-to-capacity prisons and jails.
If incarceration is not the answer in dealing with those who fail to pay child support, what is a solution?
Watts said that those found guilty should be sentenced to home confinement instead of jail so they can look for work to pay the back child support.
“You can get furloughed to go fill out a job application. You can get furloughed to go and get a job, but until you’re back in the good graces of paying your child support payment, we’re going to restrict your movement,” Watts said.
Cookman and Sen. Corey Palumbo, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said they expect to introduce a bill that would move punishment toward home confinement and away from jail sentences.
Sen. Mike Hall, the leader of Senate Republicans, said he buys the argument presented Wednesday and would likely be supportive of the bill.
“All you’re doing is ensuring there will never be child support,” Hall said of the current law. “That’s just one of those that just doesn’t make any sense at all.”
What makes sense is a system that is firm with offenders and doesn’t sentence children to additional months or years of guaranteed poverty.
The threat of punishment is designed to promote good behavior.
If something seems too good to be true, then assume that it is
Scam. noun. A confidence game or other fraudulent scheme, especially for making a quick profit; swindle.
This is a word that Marion Countians have heard a lot about in the past few years. And the problem appears to be one that is getting worse every day.
State must convince parents, schools about benefits of Common Core
It’s always nice to have a little bit of background information before diving into something new.
So we have to agree with West Virginia Board of Education president Gayle Manchin when she says the state should have done a better job of explaining Common Core standards when they were first introduced.
Those standards, part of a national educational initiative that sets learning goals designed to prepare students in kindergarten through 12th grade for college and career, will be fully implemented in every West Virginia school district next month.
Time is now for Tomblin to support King Coal Highway
U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., is asking Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin to add the King Coal Highway project to West Virginia’s six-year highway improvement plan. It is a logical request, and one that Tomblin should act promptly on.
United effort to keep NASA in Fairmont is essential project
The high-technology sector is obviously vital to the economy of North Central West Virginia.
That’s why a strong, united effort to keep the NASA Independent Verification and Validation Program in Fairmont is absolutely essential.
COLUMN: Calling all readers: Be heard
I love to talk to readers.
I love to hear concerns they have about stories we’ve written, things they think should be included in the newspaper and things they think shouldn’t be.
Korean War veterans are deserving of a memorial
NEEDED: A total of $10,000 for the Korean War Memorial this year.
And a good man has been placed in charge of the funding. Charlie Reese, former president of the Marion County Chamber of Commerce, is now director of the Marion County Development Office. His task was to make a recommendation as to what steps are necessary to keep the project moving.
Roll up your sleeves, give blood and you can save lives
It takes up to 100 units of blood to save the life of someone who sustains life-threatening injuries in a vehicle accident.
We’re hoping that the number of people who come to Fairmont Senior High School on Friday for and American Red Cross blood drive will exceed that amount.
Vehicles and motorcycles must share the road safely
The days are long. The weather is superb. There’s plenty of leisure time in these lazy days of summer.
It’s the perfect time to take a long motorcycle ride.
It’s also the perfect opportunity for us to take the time to remind not only riders but drivers of the need to share the road. And we feel compelled to mention it because just within the month of July, there have been two motorcycle-versus-car accidents within the City of Fairmont alone — one with severe injuries sustained by the motorcyclist and the other with less serious injury.
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Distracted driving: It isn’t worth fine or a life
Today marks the day that police agencies from six states are joining forces to crack down on one thing — distracted driving.
And they will focus on that traffic violation for a solid week, with the stepped-up effort to curb distracted driving wrapping up on Saturday, July 26.
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