Community corrections succeeding

By Kyle Lovern

October 4, 2013

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — A new report says community corrections programs in West Virginia are succeeding at keeping nonviolent offenders out of prisons and jails.

Between July 1, 2012 and June, 30, 2013, 3,862 offenders were placed in the programs, which are offered in 49 of the state’s 55 counties, according to the Community Corrections Act Fiscal 2013 report.

More than 1,400 offenders successfully completed assigned counseling and training programs.

“The numbers are encouraging. Judges are using the program,” Norbert Federspiel, director of the state Division of Justice and Community Service, told the Charleston Gazette.

A total 3,364 offenders stopped participating in the programs in the 2013 fiscal year, the report said. Federspiel said that they may have been remanded to state prisons or regional jails for violations, or may have completed their sentences without finishing the programs.

The most common crimes for offenders placed in community corrections are drug-related charges, larceny, embezzlement, fraud or forgery, driving under the influence, domestic battery, and public intoxication, the report said.

The programs, enacted in 2001, allow judges to sentence nonviolent offenders to day reporting centers. The centers provide counseling, adult education and/or job training. Offenders also participate in community service projects, including litter pickup, snow removal and work at nursing homes.

“Judges, by and large, are very enthusiastic about community corrections, and about certain people going that way,” State Supreme Court Administrator Steve Canterbury told the newspaper.

Federspiel said that it’s difficult to estimate the programs’ cost-savings.

Canterbury said that community corrections’ real value is the comparatively low repeat-offender rate for those who complete the programs.

“They learn how to control their impulses. They learn how to control their anger, and they learn to choose their friends a little better,” said Canterbury, who is a longtime advocate of community corrections.

Community corrections programs received more than $1.5 million in grants and $5 million in budget appropriations in the fiscal 2013 year.