Times West Virginian
When a person is charged with a crime, the outcome can look bleak.
Depending on the severity of that crime, jail time can loom on the horizon.
But people who are charged with nonviolent crimes can go to a place that helps rehabilitate them through drug and alcohol counseling, and even help them possibly attain a GED and look for a job.
In Marion County, that place is the Day Report Center, which is a sentencing alternative for people charged with nonviolent crimes.
Instead of a jail sentence or as a condition of bond, those people might be ordered to attend the center, where they will receive counseling, attend various classes and perform community service for a specified time.
Funded by a $133,351 grant from the West Virginia Community Corrections Act Program, the center opened its doors on March 15, 2010. It is one of 35 such centers around the state.
The need for the center is obvious. According to the West Virginia Division of Justice and Community Service, nonviolent offenders accounted for almost 76 percent of new prison admissions in 2006 and 51 percent of the stock population in mid-2007.
Almost 21 percent of new commitments in 2007 were parole violators.
The length of stay increased for nearly all crime categories between 2001 and 2006, and for many nonviolent offenses: burglary (20.1 months), property (10.6 months) and drug offenses (eight months).
That’s where the Day Report Center comes in. Since opening, the center has helped more than 180 offenders, and there are currently 56 active participants. The rehabilitation offered at the center may also help cut the recidivism rate.
But it won’t be easy.
“This is not just an experiment,” said director Ted Offutt. “We are not coddling criminals. We’re not being soft on crime. The individuals in this program can tell you. It’s easier to lay in a bunk at jail than to be in this program. They have to participate in programs.”
The Day Report Center has helped people like Angela, who asked to be identified by a fictitious name for privacy reasons. She was driving in Taylor County last October when a police officer motioned for her to pull over. That’s when he asked to see her license, but because she didn’t have one, she got a ticket that she signed with her sister’s name. That led to her being indicted on two felony counts of forging and two counts of uttering a public document. An added issue was that a court-ordered drug test came back positive for “so many drugs” in her system.
She was sent to the Day Report Center, and she’s glad.
“It hasn’t been easy, but it’s been worth it,” Angela explained to the Times West Virginian. “It changed my life completely. A year ago I never thought I’d be the person I am today.”
Angela’s story certainly isn’t unique. There are more people like her who are being rehabilitated thanks to the success of programs like the Day Report Center.
But the center doesn’t just help rehabilitate nonviolent offenders. It’s saving the county money by keeping the North Central Regional Jail less crowded. Paying $50 a day for each Marion County inmate at the regional jail can cost more than a million dollars in a year. That doesn’t include transportation, wear and tear on the transport van, time and gas.
It’s clear that the Marion County Day Report Center is providing people with the second chance they need.