Yesterday, Dave Boucher and I attended the Associated Press’s annual Legislative Lookahead day at Marshall University’s South Charleston campus. The daylong event featured most all the state’s top political leaders, who gave us a glimpse of the issues they’ll be handling in the upcoming legislative session.
My story focused on prison overcrowding. State corrections commissioner Jim Rubenstein said the state’s prison system is at “boiling over.” From my story:
Rubenstein said on any given day all 5,400 state prison beds are filled and about 1,800 inmates who should be in state facilities are held in regional jails.
Joe DeLong, the state’s regional jails director, said jails also are overcrowded, but that is directly related to overcrowding in prisons.
If the state could keep all its prisoners in prison instead of using jails for its overflow, he said, the jails no longer would be overcrowded.
The Justice Reinvestment Initiative work group released a study last month on how the state should overhaul its system, focusing mainly on increasing supervision of offenders once they leave the criminal justice system and reducing substance abuse. We learned yesterday the state’s top lawmakers have differing opinions on those recommendations. Democrats seem to favor the suggestions, but Republicans worry they’re too lenient, that prisoners would be let out early just so the justice system could monitor them after their release.
One thing everyone agrees: the state cannot afford to build a new prison, which could cost more than $100 million. Read my full story here.
Dave Boucher, the Daily Mail’s newest statehouse reporter (more on that later), wrote about the other big focus this year, the education audit. From his story:
Since the release of an education efficiency audit in January 2012, (Gov. Earl Ray) Tomblin has acknowledged the need for change several times.
On Thursday he hinted at some of the themes he could address early in the session – calendar flexibility; a shift of control to local school systems; reading proficiency; and general system effectiveness in preparing students for life after high school.
Tomblin said he intends to release his education suggestions in the first 10 days of the session, which begins next Wednesday. State superintendent Jim Phares also attended yesterday’s session and outlined his hopes for the session.
Phares said the department is continually trying to decrease its bureaucracy, including eliminating some of its own policies. He plans to ask the Legislature to eliminate antiquated code.
As I mentioned above, Dave is going to be working with me this session at the statehouse. Our friend, colleague and Capitol Bureau Chief Ry Rivard is leaving us to work for Inside Higher Ed in Washington, D.C. We wish him well in the big city.
Dave is the Daily Mail’s former education writer, joining us about a year ago after working at a newspaper in rural Kentucky. He’s a Michigan native and a Northwestern University graduate. He also worked for the German equivalent of NPR while in college. Ask him about that. He got a really nice umbrella out of it.
Dave’s background in education reporting really makes him the perfect addition to our statehouse team this session, since everyone agrees school reform will be the premiere issue for lawmakers.