Besides analyzing mountains of data from West Virginia's courts and corrections systems, Reynolds and his team have been interviewing prosecutors, defense lawyers, judges, law enforcement, victims' advocates, probation and parole officers, and religious leaders.
Sen. Bill Laird, a former county sheriff who has helped lead legislative efforts on this issue, also is a working-group member. He noted the huge scope of the problem the study seeks to address and questioned whether any one proposal will fix it.
"There has to be something that occurs here that is not just going to be a systemic tweak but, at least in my opinion, a pretty big shift in the way we look at our criminal justice system," said Laird, D-Fayette.
Other group members also touched on the problem's sprawling nature. Phil Morrison, executive director of the state Prosecuting Attorneys Institute, for instance relayed an anecdote about a coal operator seeking miners in Montana because West Virginia applicants can't pass the drug test.
West Virginia has the nation's second-highest rate for drug overdose deaths. Reynolds suggested taking a smarter approach to substance abuse screening and services for inmates.
Morrison and the Rev. Matthew Watts, a Charleston community leader, cited the growing "underclass" of convicted felons that employers won't hire. Watts estimated that they number 50,000 in West Virginia. He also urged action to make a difference for the thousands of youths who drop out of school or who end up in the juvenile justice system or foster care.
"Those are the streams that our filling our prisons," Watts said.
Steve Canterbury, a working-group member and administrative director for the West Virginia Supreme Court, said he will recommend that justices adopt a rule calling for a more comprehensive assessment of each defendant's risks and needs between conviction and sentencing as a result of Thursday's discussion.