A nonpartisan panel that has been studying West Virginia's prison overcrowding problems for the past year has submitted recommendations its members believe could reduce the prison population and save the state more than $100 million by 2018, reports the Charleston Gazette. The Justice Center of the Council of State Governments presented its report to Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin this week, recommending expanded community-based substance abuse treatment programs; intense post-release supervision of all inmates, and enhanced community-based supervision of inmates on probation or parole.
The center's report estimates that if the recommendations are adopted, West Virginia's inmate population will drop from the current 7,531 to 7,418 by 2018. That would amount to an overall savings of $140 million in operating costs over that period, compared to a projected growth of the prison population to 8,893 by 2018 if no changes are made. The report calls for reinvesting about $5.5 million a year of the savings into programs to assist probationers and parolees, including community-based substance abuse treatment programs.