26 January 2010

Legislature 2010: Prisons

West Virginia has lacked enough space in its prisons for everyone it sentences there for crimes, and lawmakers find themselves under increasing pressure to address the situation.

As the Charleston Daily Mail reports, "West Virginia currently has 6,300 inmates in its correctional system, but prisons around the state only have bed space to accommodate slightly more than 5,000. As a result, regional jails are carrying the excess burden until beds can be freed up."

Officials told legislators that "as the state Division of Corrections expands by roughly three inmates a day and 1,300 people are being sentenced into the correctional system daily, a long-term solution is overdue," the article said.

The Charleston newspaper cites the recent report from a committee appointed by Gov. Joe Manchin. It recommended 14 steps, including "constructing a new 1,200-cell correctional facility in the state, as well as a 300-bed expansion at the St. Mary's Correctional Complex."

But lawmakers also face a competing commission assembled by the state Supreme Court that advises against new prison space. Public Broadcasting reports on the dueling sets of recommendations (with audio).

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