Tomblin's prison crowding bill looks at substance abuse, mental - WOWK 13 Charleston, Huntington WV News, Weather, Sports

Tomblin's prison crowding bill looks at substance abuse, mental health

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CHARLESTON, WV -

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin might be remembered after the 2013 legislative session as the sponsor of extremely long bills.

Tomblin's education reform bill was introduced Feb. 25, and it touched on nearly 40 sections of code with its comprehensive recommendations.

Tomblin's criminal justice reforms were introduced in a single, lengthy bill Feb. 26, and while it's not quite as lengthy, its proposals are broad, from drug abuse to probation and parole.

Just as Tomblin was aided in his education reform objectives by the education efficiency audit, his corrections reform ideas are guided by the recently completed report from a study by the Council of State Governments Justice Center.

The bill, Senate Bill 371, would require the Division of Corrections to perform graduated method health screens and evaluations of anyone in its custody. It also would mandate a maximum of one year of supervised release for violent inmates and mandate a maximum of 180 days of supervised release for nonviolent inmates.

The measure proposes requiring the Commissioner of Corrections to establish policies about mandatory supervised release and would require the Regional Jail Authority to use a standardized screening instrument that would be adopted by the Supreme Court of Appeals along with exempting parole officers from current concealed carry prohibitions.

Tomblin's bill would add a representative from the Bureau for Behavioral Health and Health Facilities to the community corrections subcommittee and the Governor's Committee on Crime, Delinquency and Correction.

The measure also would add a person with a background in substance abuse treatment and services to the community criminal justice boards of each county or combination of counties and would require probation officers to conduct standardized risk and needs assessments for anyone placed on probation. The bill also would authorize day reporting centers to provide services based on a person's risk and needs assessment.

Tomblin's proposal would require that the Division of Corrections' policies and procedures for developing rehabilitation treatment plans include the use of substance abuse assessment tools and prioritize treatment resources based on the risk and needs assessment and substance abuse assessment results.

The bill would outline the presumption that parole is appropriate for inmates who complete the accelerated parole program and a rehabilitation treatment program along with providing standards and limitation for the Parole Board and outlining the duties of the Division of Corrections to supervise, treat and provide support services for everyone released on mandatory supervised release.

The measure would allow the Commissioner of Corrections to issue a certificate that would authorize a parole officer to carry firearms or concealed weapons, and it would require the Division of Justice and Community Services to use appropriated funds to start substance abuse treatment for anyone under treatment supervision.