Early inmate release raises concerns about public safety in West Virginia

Coronavirus

RANSON, W.Va. (WDVM) — Questions are being raised about the early release of West Virginia prison inmates by Governor Jim Justice because of COVID-19 risks behind bars.

Two names on a list of 70 were of concern because of the severity of their crimes. One was convicted of murdering a Vietnam veteran and the other is a registered sex offender. But now, with shelters closed because of the coronavirus, some are worried about where released inmates will be housed, in addition to concerns about those at risk for a relapse with substance abuse. The Jefferson Day Report Center hopes those released early will connect with their support programs.

Kelly Franklin with the Jefferson County Day Report Center says “there have been some public safety risks [with the early inmate release] but we do offer peer support here. A released inmate can actually check in with a peer recovery specialist or a peer coach. And that keeps them busy during the day—something to do besides sitting at home or running around.”

Critics of the governor’s early release of inmates are concerned about a potentially high rate of recidivism.

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