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Criminal Justice Officials Favor Restoring Child, Family Funding

PHOTO: Sen. Bill Laird of Fayette County, a former county sheriff, says cutting programs that help West Virginia families in crisis will cost the state more money in the long run. Photo credit: Dan Heyman.
PHOTO: Sen. Bill Laird of Fayette County, a former county sheriff, says cutting programs that help West Virginia families in crisis will cost the state more money in the long run. Photo credit: Dan Heyman.
May 9, 2014

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Criminal justice officials are joining those who say West Virginia should restore $750,000 in cuts from programs for children and families.

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin cut the funding for programs, including child advocacy, in-home family education and support for victims of domestic violence and child abuse.

His critics say the cuts will end up costing far more in court, prison, health and substance abuse spending.

U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin says prosecutors know that's true, especially for families in crisis with children.

"The social cost with a child going down a particular path are enormous,” Goodwin stresses. “An ounce of prevention is worth many, many pounds of cure – and we're seeing it, day in and day out."

The governor made about $1 million worth of cuts through line-item vetoes in March.

He said they were designed to help close a big gap in the state budget.

This week, he restored about one-quarter of the funding.

State Sen. Bill Laird served 16 years as Fayette County sheriff. He says that meant getting up at 3 a.m. to deal with a domestic violence protection order, or to make sure a child taken from a bad home situation had a safe place to stay.

In his view, he says the programs that were cut did more than deal with problems early – they stopped some from happening in the first place.

"I bring with me a lot of years walking what I refer to as the ditch line of the criminal justice system,” he says. “This is catching a problem before you have to make the initial investment to begin with."

According to Goodwin, when the state can do something for children caught in violent situations, the budget questions are only part of the issue.

"Plus, it's just the right thing to do,” he maintains. “I'm not saying that every one of these children that are exposed to violence will end up in the criminal justice system.

“But there will be an effect, and we need to do everything that we can to minimize that effect."


Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV