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.
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.
COLUMN: Are we people watchers or people judgers?
Let me tell you about my little friend Robby. Well, actually, it’s more about his family and especially his mom. I didn’t get her name. I heard Robby’s name quite a bit, though, during a trip home from Birmingham, Alabama.
I noticed the family in the Birmingham airport immediately. They were just the kind of family you’d notice.
Relish the rich bounty of state’s diverse, unique food traditions
This week, a group of federal officials on a three-day culinary tour of the state visited the Greenbrier Valley to find out what most of us here already know — we have a rich food tradition in West Virginia.
The group was made up of officials from the Appalachian Regional Commission, the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Soup Opera in need of your support again this time of year
It’s happening again.
It usually always happens about this time each year. Sometimes it’s a little earlier and sometimes a little later.
But Soup Opera executive director Shelia Tennant knows it will come — usually in July. And she’s never that surprised about it.
County honors men who gave all in helping their community
The next time you’re driving in the Rivesville area, you might notice new signs on two of the area’s bridges.
Those signs, which bear the names of Alex Angelino and Denzil O. Lockard, were unveiled Saturday in honor of the men whose names they display, two men who died while serving their communities.
The bridge on U.S. 19 over Paw Paw Creek was named to honor Lockard, while the bridge on U.S. 19 over Pharaoh Run Creek was named to honor Angelino. Lockard, a former Rivesville police chief, died in 1958 at the age of 48 while directing traffic. Angelino, a Rivesville firefighter, died at the age of 43 of a heart attack while fighting a fire in 1966.
State must learn to keep costs down and perform more efficiently on less
The West Virginia state government began its budget year last Tuesday with a small surplus of $40 million — less than 1 percent of its annual tax revenues — thanks only to dipping into its savings.
Let’s not do that again.
Long-range vision with transportation has been made to be thing of proud past
Last week’s closure of Fairmont’s Fourth Street Bridge is a symbol of a problem that must be fixed.
The United States should be proud of the vision its leaders once displayed to address the country’s transportation needs.
Back in 1954, for example, President Dwight D. Eisenhower announced his goal of an interstate highway system — something that transformed the country.
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- Roll up your sleeves, give blood and you can save lives