Corrections: Bill helps parole board program run efficiently - WOWK 13 Charleston, Huntington WV News, Weather, Sports

Corrections: Bill helps parole board program run efficiently

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The West Virginia Legislature ventured to North-Central West Virginia for its August interim committee meetings, and one of the early presentations praised lawmakers' work.

Jim Rubenstein, commissioner of the West Virginia Division of Corrections, gave a presentation before a West Virginia legislative committee Aug. 25.

He said a bill that was passed during the 2013 legislative session has given the division the ability to move the department forward for the state.

“Senate Bill 371 really puts some teeth into it where the parole board can grant parole, a condition being completing a program in a day report center instead of remaining in one of our correctional facilities,” he said. “Not all of the aspects have been implemented either.”

The bill related to prison overcrowding, and Rubenstein said the legislation greatly helped the WVDOC.

The purpose of the bill was to address the overcrowding, improve public safety and tackle the substance abuse problems in the state.

Rubenstein said during Fiscal Year 2014, the overall WVDOC inmate population decreased by 3.5 percent, the number of WVDOC inmates held at the Regional Jail Associations decreased 47.7 percent and the number of inmates held in WVDOC facilities increased by 10.3 percent due to a number of capacity upgrades primarily attributed to the opening of Salem Correctional Center.

He said the center in Salem houses about 380 male inmates.

The bill passed requires inmates who discharge their sentence, and committed their crime after July 1 to spend: one year on mandatory supervision if convicted of a violent offense and up to 180 days of mandatory supervision if convicted of a non-violent offense if so ordered by the court.

The WVDOC has implemented policy on this subject and currently has 22 inmates who will spend time on Mandatory Supervision if they discharge their sentence without being paroled, Rubenstein said.

According to WVDOC, the prison population was going to be increased over a four to five year period of time before any type of leveling, or decrease, before the legislation was passed.

Rubenstein also addressed Senate Bill 457, which requires programs for temporarily detained inmates in the regional jail system.

“We'll see the benefits from that,” he said. “It's a work in progress but it is in the works as well.”

Some of the programs would allow individuals to be part of parole sanctions, attending AA meetings through community corrections, among other things.

“We've had some preliminary discussions,” he added.

Rubenstein also addressed a grant in the amount of $550,000 from the Bureau of Justice Assistance to pay for some of the Justice Reinvestment Implementation tasks.

The funding was approved for staff training on various things including on the topics of substance abuse programs and training.

“To make sure that we use these evidence-based practices within all of these programs, it would be money well spent,” Rubenstein said. “If we see otherwise, we would look at other programs — if it's not being effective in getting the results we feel it should.”