Dedication

This website is devoutly dedicated to all of Larry's friends and associates, both early and late, who have influenced and mentored him. However, it also should be noted that, being who they are, a majority of them have been late most of the time.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Thoughts about SB 371 (Criminal Justice Reform)

The following are my thoughts that I shared with other leaders about the above referenced legislative proposal on post conviction criminal justice:

The American Correctional Association (ACA) Page 8, lines 7 & 8
 

 Giving broad and absolute authority to the American Correctional Association (ACA) to establish West Virginia Division of Corrections mental health guidelines would surrender West Virginia's jurisdiction and authority to an unaccountable outside organization. I suggest that the ACA not be given authority or jurisdiction in this legislation. Their expertise can be utilized as suggestions without giving them authority. (I can amplify further on this. This is a major concern)

Child Abuse, Page 11, beginning on line 16
 

 Any early release, including parole, of any person convicted of child abuse (or abuse of a vulnerable person) seriously endangers public safety. Those committing these heinous crimes should never be eligible for accelerated release or parole, inasmuch as their danger to public safety is ongoing. These felons, while not a large percentage of prison populations and usually not a behavioral problem while incarcerated, nonetheless constitute a clear and present danger to the public upon their release from incarceration.

 

Parole Officers Self-Defense, Page 15, lines 16-17, Page 54, lines 15-24

 

 Allowing parole officers to carry concealed deadly weapons simply is prudent policy.

 

Risk & Needs Assessments , Page 19, line 21, Pages 24-25, Page 29, line 18, Page 31, lines 18-24, Page 32, line 4, Page 36, lines 5-8 and lines 18-19, Page 46, line 18, Page 53, lines 6-11, Page 57, lines 14-15, Page 65, lines 5-7

 

 Care should be taken to not create a burdensome bureaucracy with this process. Many jurisdictions have become so enamored with complex assessments that the assessments actually have become counter-productive to positive outcomes. There is a real danger that administration of these assessments will consume too much of the time that criminal justice employees should be spending in more productive ways. Suggest streamlining this criteria by simply mandating that it should be "cost and time effective"  and that reports about programs be "outcome based", to help forestall the temptation of agencies to simply tout the number of programs and participants as indicators of success. 

 

Community Corrections Subcommittee, Page 22

 

 I would suggest that a  prison case manager (non-supervisor) also serve on this subcommittee, inasmuch as it is this line position that has a tremendous insight into effective programming and need. 


Community Criminal Justice Boards/Substance Abuse Treatment, Page 27, lines 1-2, Page 68, lines 12-17

 

 The definition of a member "with a background in substance abuse treatment and services" should be further clarified to  emphasize the principle that preference shall be given to the appointment of an individual with successful direct experience with abusers in abuse service and treatment and without regard to formal education. It has been my sad experience that abuse treatment can become a "cottage industry" for degreed professionals, while the most effective abuse counselors are those who have had personal and real world experience in overcoming addictions. In prison environments, often the most effective mentors are those who can relate to the abusers by showing them how they overcame their own abuse addictions (including fellow inmates). The Twelve-step Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous are two good program examples. Also, inmates often use addictions programs merely as tools to "game the system" and  to glean certificates of completion for parole and release purposes, but without merit.    

 

 

Random Drug & Alcohol Testing, Page 30, lines 15-16

 

 Another good tool. 

 

 

Violation of Probation, page 37, lines 15-17, Page 38, lines 5-7

 

 The focus of violations of probation on absconding from supervision or committing a new crime, instead of other minor issues perhaps is the most excellent recommendation to reduce bureaucracy and counter-productive criminal "justice" in SB 371. However, I would suggest that the penalties for minor probation violations be even more lenient and less structured.

 

Home Plans & Jobs, Page 43, line 18, Page 52, lines 5-24

 

 These provisions are most welcome. A major problem with release from incarceration is lack of the ability of inmates to find a home plan or to become employed and productive members of society.  

 

State Parole Officers Imprisonment Authority, Page 54, line 12, Page 59, lines 4-19

 

 Giving parole officers the right to imprison, without approval of the court, really worries me.

 

Drug Courts (Drug Offender Accountability and Treatment), Page 64

 

 Drug courts have been an effective tool, tremendously reducing recidivism (as well as prison costs), and should be supported and expanded. 

 

 Finally, much more should be attempted to address West Virginia's prison problems, in  addition to the above suggestions regarding SB 371.

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