THE Pew Center on the States found that West Virginia has a low rate of re-offense among inmates released from prison. West Virginia's "class of 2004" had a three-year recidivism rate of 26.8 percent, fourth lowest in the nation.
While the rate rose to 30 percent for the class of 2007, both numbers are well below the national average of 43.8 percent.
State corrections officials are doing something right.
"Our philosophy is that we need to start preparing that inmate from the minute they come in the door to the moment they go out the door," Division of Corrections Commissioner Jim Rubenstein told the Daily Mail's Jared Hunt.
Corrections offers anger management programs, help with substance abuse and behavioral counseling. Officials also encourage inmates to complete General Educational Development degrees or vocational training.
West Virginia has a relatively low incarceration rate. In 2007, nationally, there were 447 people out of every 100,000 in a state prison. In West Virginia, the number was 333 inmates per 100,000 people.
Yet overcrowding remains a serious problem, and the state has to manage populations aggressively.
In 2004, the state released 1,346 inmates. Within three years, 361 re-entered the system.
In 2007, the state released 2,406 people. In three years, 723 had re-offended and were returned to custody.
The recidivism rate varied among subgroups.
In 2007, West Virginia discharged 694 people who had completed their sentences. Their recidivism rate was 13.1 percent.
The state released 1,430 inmates to parole. Their recidivism rate was 37.8 percent -three times as high.
Still, that, too, was below the national average.
Rubenstein wants the state to beef up community-level substance abuse and behavioral counseling facilities for parolees. Inmates often face waiting lists now.
"If they have to wait four to six weeks to see somebody, that's just way too long and a recipe for failure," he said.
If corrections officials say they need something, lawmakers should listen.
Figures don't lie. West Virginia's corrections system seems to be doing its difficult job well.
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