CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Even before parts of a new state law passed this year went into effect, a report released this week shows that community corrections programs offered in 49 counties are having a significant impact keeping offenders out of state prisons and regional jails.
The Community Corrections Act Fiscal 2013 report shows that 3,862 offenders were placed in community corrections between July 1, 2012 and June 30, 2013.
"The numbers are encouraging. Judges are using the program," Norbert Federspiel, director of the Division of Justice and Community Service, said Wednesday of the alternative sentencing program.
Enacted in 2001, the program allows judges to sentence nonviolent offenders to day reporting centers, where they receive counseling, adult education and/or job training, and participate in various community service projects.
According to the report, 3,364 offenders stopped participating in community corrections in the 2013 fiscal year, with 1,472 successfully completing assigned counseling and training programs.
Federspiel said the others may have completed their sentence without finishing the programs, or may have been remanded to prison or regional jails for violations.
State Supreme Court Administrator Steve Canterbury, a longtime advocate of community corrections, said the cost savings of not having those offenders in prison or regional jails is extraordinary, but the real value is in the comparatively low repeat-offender rates for those who complete community corrections.
"They learn how to control their impulses. They learn how to control their anger, and they learn to choose their friends a little better," Canterbury said.
In the 2013 budget year, community corrections programs statewide received $1.578 million in grants and $5 million in budget appropriations, according to the report.