The Times West Virginian

Opinion

June 17, 2014

New thinking can help state break the cycle of drug abuse and prison

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin is justifiably proud of the quick success of his Justice Reinvestment Initiative, which in just two years has eased prison overcrowding in West Virginia by reducing the number of inmates in the state’s penal facilities.

The purpose of the concept was to strengthen community-based supervision and fine-tune risk assessments to weed out violent offenders — who need to be behind bars — from those who pose little risk of violent behavior. We think it is a successful start.

West Virginia has lagged behind other states in attacking its prison overcrowding problem and the massive funding it siphons out of the state’s budget.

It’s easy to say we should lock up everybody convicted of a crime and keep them in prison until they learn the error of their ways. But the real world is not so simple.

The idea of alternative programs such as establishing community corrections boards and other groups that determine risk assessments helps judges and the court system to determine whether those convicted or those awaiting trial can benefit from alternatives to a jail cell.

These can be drug treatment programs, or home confinement with an ankle monitor, or counseling. These may not satisfy a thirst for vengeance, but they are practical attempts to address problems that will not be solved by throwing more money at the state’s correctional facilities in order to lock up more people.

Since last year, the governor said last week in Washington, West Virginias prison population has been reduced by almost 5 percent, and overcrowding by 50 percent.

The state’s prison population is about 6,743 inmates, compared to projections that by this time we would have 7,800 inmates. As we know too well in southern West Virginia, drug offenses and the related property crimes that fund drug purchases are the primary drivers behind the prison population in the state.

It is a scourge that shows no sign of slowing. But drug treatment programs and counseling do show promise and have had success, and it is the right thing to offer these options to the right people who have been caught in the web of drugs.

The problem with drugs that we have in West Virginia now does not mean it has to continue at its current level forever.

As Raleigh County Sheriff Steve Tanner has said, we need to focus on anti-drug education in our schools at the elementary level, to show our children they don’t have to become a “lost generation.” We need to coach kids that their lives do not have to follow the path of their older brothers and sisters, or cousins or aunts and uncles, into the pit of drug abuse.

Earl Ray Tomblin has shown us that creative new ideas and ways of dealing with those convicted of crimes can work to reduce our prison population and provide alternatives to those who are most likely to benefit. Some may criticize this as being soft on crime.

We see this as the kind of new thinking that can help us break the cycle of drug abuse and prison, one inmate at a time.

— The (Beckley) Register-Herald

1
Text Only
Opinion
  • 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.

    July 30, 2014

  • 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.

    July 29, 2014

  • 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.

    July 27, 2014

  • 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.

    July 27, 2014

  • 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.

    July 25, 2014

  • 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.

    July 24, 2014

  • 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.

    July 23, 2014

  • Too many taking too few steps to protect selves from skin cancer

    July 22, 2014

  • 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.

    July 20, 2014

  • 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.

    July 20, 2014

Featured Ads
NDN Politics
House Ads