CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Legislators' concerns, both fiscal and philosophical, led to the demise of legislation Saturday intended to alleviate overcrowding in state prisons and regional jails, Corrections Commissioner Jim Rubenstein said Monday.
"Some of the costs were a concern, and there were some philosophical differences," he said of the failure to pass the Corrections reform legislation (SB342).
He said legislators raised concerns over two key provisions of the bill: Establishing a 200-bed secured alternate sentencing facility that would offer substance abuse treatment and recovery programs, and providing six months' mandatory supervision for inmates who have served their full sentences and are otherwise not subject to parole.
The bill was taken off the House of Delegates agenda Friday, and despite negotiations during the day Saturday, was not put back on the active calendar before the session adjourned at midnight.
Despite the setback, Rubenstein said he remains hopeful the Legislature will address prison overcrowding in the near future, and is encouraged that Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin has brought in a task force from the Council of State Governments to look at the problem and come up with recommendations.
"My understanding is it will be a very expansive, very comprehensive study," Rubenstein said. "Based on their experience in other states, the roadmap they put out for the state should be a good one."
He said he remains hopeful the Legislature's work on prison overcrowding issues during the session and during legislative interim meetings ultimately will pay off.
"I hope there's a positive twist to this ... as we look at the situation we have here in West Virginia, and take steps to take care of prison overcrowding," Rubenstein said.
Corrections reform was one of several bills that failed to pass during the 60-day legislative session.