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21,000 jailed or on parole, probation
March 3, 2009 - Jim Smith
The Pew Center on the States' study held a frightening statistic this week: one of every 68 people in West Virginia, which certainly is not known for being a high crime area, was either jailed or on probation in 2007.
The number is a huge increase over the last 25 years. In 1982 the number of jailed or on probation in the state was one in every 226. Of course, with more people in jail, the cost of the state's correctional system has also significantly increased from $62 million in 1998 to $181 million in 2008. Wood County commissioners well know the cost of housing prisoners at the regional jail and transporting the inmates back and forth to court certainly has taken a big bite out of the county budget ... a bite that undoubtedly will only get worse.
According to the Pew study a little more than 10,000 people were incarcerated in local, state and federal lockups across West Virginia at the end of 2007, the latest figures available, and another 11,000 were on probation or parole.
By comparison, the prison population in the United States has increased to 2.3 million, costing states nearly $50 billion a year, with the federal and local governments spending billions more.
I have to admit I wish there had been more context to the AP report, such as comparing West Virginia to surrounding states. Granted the population in the Mountain State is substantially less than in Ohio or Pennsylvania, but the percentage jailed would have been interesting.
West Virginia just isn't a state one normally thinks of as having a large crime issue or a large number of people in jail, so the one in 68 figure was more than surprising.
The real question, though, is with the failing economy will the numbers increase?
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