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PNS Daily Newscast - September 18, 2020 

A federal judge slams the brakes on U.S. Postal Service changes nationwide; and we take you to the state 'out front' for clean elections.

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Trump slams the 1619 project on Constitution Day, and Pennsylvania's Supreme Court makes some election changes.

Commissioner: Governor Open to Special Session on Prison Overcrowding

July 3, 2009

Charleston, WV – West Virginia’s prison overcrowding problem has grown to such a crisis, Gov. Joe Manchin is considering calling lawmakers back to Charleston for a special session. A new report released by the Governor’s Commission on Prison Overcrowding shows more than one thousand inmates are being housed in regional jails because the state's 14 prisons are at capacity. While the crisis has been building for years, a member of the commission worries the situation will put the West Virginia at risk of intervention from the state courts and federal justice department.

Rev. Matthew Watts of Charleston says Gov. Manchin has related he is willing to consider remedying legislation, and call a special legislative session, if necessary.

"We’ve reached a tipping point, with thirteen hundred inmates backed up in the regional jail system. That’s the equivalent of an entire prison, which is why it may warrant a special session."

The state Supreme Court or the federal Justice Department could become involved because over-crowding is a safety issue, warns Watts.

"Inmates who have been sentenced as convicted felons, to the penitentiary, are still remaining in the regional jail system with pre-trial people, who've been charged with misdemeanors."

The state has to deal with juvenile offenders better to keep them from becoming repeat criminals, adds Watts, who says the state already has a community corrections system that could be expanded to deal with non-violent offenders and ex-cons, at one-tenth the cost of keeping them in prison.

"Non-violent people could receive alternative sentences where they remain in the community and where they could be employed. It could have an immediate impact - within two years."

At current rates, the report projects prison populations of twice present capacity within eight years. One proposal is to build a new 1,200-bed prison, but Watts says that’s at least $200 million the state doesn’t have. He argues the most cost-effective solution would be to invest in crime prevention, favoring alternative sentences for non-violent offenders. Opponents have criticized those plans as soft on crime, and say they would reduce deterrence.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV