re-offense rate remains low amid opioid crisis, COVID-19
W.Va. – West Virginians who have served their time for crimes
are less likely to return to prison than similar individuals in most other
states, a new study by Justice and Community Services researchers suggests.
The research team tracked adults for three
years following their release from West Virginia prisons and jails on parole,
upon completion of their sentences or through court orders. Of those 3,156
individuals, 923 were charged with new crimes or saw their parole revoked
within those three years.
That 29.25 percent “recidivism” rate for
2016 releases is slightly higher than the rate measured last year for 2015
releases, which was just under 28 percent. But this
latest study marks the ninth consecutive year that this annual look-back found
the recidivism rate to be below 30 percent.
Those rates compare favorably with that of
most other states, which similarly track released offenders for three years to
gauge recidivism. Figures compiled by Virginia’s Department of Corrections
ranked West Virginia as having the third-lowest recidivism rate among 42 states
with comparable figures earlier this year. Virginia and South Carolina had tied
for first in that review.
The Office of Research and Strategic
Planning conducted West Virginia’s latest recidivism study. The office is part
of the Justice and Community Services section of the Department of Homeland
Security’s Division of Administrative Services. The study relied on data from
DHS’ Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation, which operates the state’s
prisons and jails.
"This report is a helpful tool for
DCR, highlighting various offender populations and crime categories that have
an impact on recidivism,” said Mobolaji O. “Bola” Otunuga, a Ph.D. and director
of the ORSP. “By focusing on these categories through targeted programming and
treatment, DCR can further reduce the recidivism rate."
Parole revocations accounted for 58
percent of the recidivism rate, with 41.5 percent resulting from new criminal
offenses. Nearly 88 percent of those released in 2016 were white, while nearly
11 percent were Black. The recidivism rate among white offenders was nearly 30
percent, compared with nearly 24 percent for Black offenders.
Nearly half of all who re-offended did so
within one year of their release. That suggests a one-year recidivism rate of
14 percent. Among all the individuals released in 2016, nearly 21 percent had
been convicted of drug-related offenses and their recidivism rate was 24
percent. Another 15 percent of those released served time for burglary or
breaking and entering, while their recidivism rate was 42 percent.
The ORSP team also measured the recidivism
rate among offenders who took part in a Residential Substance Abuse Treatment
program while in prison or jail. Their rate was slightly higher than the
overall rate, or around 29.5 percent, that
“The reason for the RSATs’ higher rate is
not completely known,” the latest report said. “It may be because in order to
participate in the program, an inmate needs to be assessed as ‘high risk to
Homeland Security Secretary Jeff Sandy
touted the Getting Over Addictive Lifestyles Successfully (GOALS) program, a new
inpatient treatment-diversion initiative now operating at two regional jails
that Sandy estimates has saved counties $2.1 million in incarceration costs.
Sandy also cited Gov. Jim Justice’s championing of training programs for
“We now have over 250 educational and
training programs in our prisons,” Sandy said. “The governor believes the best
way to keep felons from breaking the law is with a good job.”
Among its efforts, DCR hosts re-entry
simulations to prepare inmates slated for release and trains faculty for the Inside-Out
Prison Exchange Program. Last year, the U.S. Department of Justice selected the
Saint Marys Correctional Center as the site for its new training film on
“West Virginia corrections has received
national recognition for its emphasis on rehabilitation and re-entry,” Corrections
Commissioner Betsy Jividen said. “The COVID-19 pandemic has placed limits on
some of these programs, but DCR is poised to resume those as soon as possible.”