Study Aims To Address Jail Overcrowding In West Virginia

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UPDATE: 11:21 a.m.  West Virginia can ease prison and jail crowding by refocusing drug treatment efforts in the communities.

That's one emerging recommendation from a study of the state's crowding crisis by the Justice Reinvestment Initiative.

Project researchers updated state officials Monday and highlighted the role substance abuse plays in the criminal justice system.

The study has found that one in five people sent to prison committed drug-related offenses. Nearly two-thirds of inmates in prison after violating probation have substance abuse or addiction issues.

But the researchers say the probation or parole programs offer no substance-abuse services. They recommend changing that, while also improving services in prison and the state's day reporting centers.

The study suggests that West Virginia can reduce offenders committing new crimes by 30 percent with sufficient treatment services.

West Virginia officials hope a study is closer to recommending ways to ease the state's inmate crowding crisis.

Researchers with the Justice Reinvestment Initiative are scheduled to update state officials Monday.

The project aims to keep the public safe while also addressing West Virginia's at-capacity prisons and overcrowded jails.

West Virginia's adult incarceration rate ranks 32nd among states. But it leads the nation for prison population growth.

The initiative is a project of the Justice Center at the nonpartisan Council of State Governments. It's helped a number of other states, including neighboring Ohio. The U.S. Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Assistance and the Pew Center on the States are paying for the study.

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin requested the study and appointed the working group that's meeting with researchers Monday.