In March 2023, lawmakers passed legislation, Senate Bill 633, to address a growing reason why people are taken to West Virginia jails: capiases. A capias – or bench warrant – is an arrest order issued by a magistrate or judge. The number of people brought to jail on a capias arrest in West Virginia increased from 1,990 in 2012 to 4,936 in 2022. Today, one in eight people enter jail because of a capias.
These capiases are contributing to the overcrowding in regional jails that makes it so difficult to keep people safe and to attract people who want to work inside them. Despite a decade of falling crime rates and a decline in the number of criminal charges filed, there are more people in West Virginia jails today than there were a decade ago.
Before Senate Bill 633, there was no uniform standard for what would happen when a person was jailed on a capias. Typically, that person would have been incarcerated without bond until a hearing was scheduled. In one courtroom, that hearing might occur within a few days. In another, that hearing might not have happened for weeks. But every day of incarceration costs the county $48.25, which means that a county could spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on a jail bill before a person even has a hearing.
Senate Bill 633 created a uniform standard for capias arrests. Under the new law, magistrates and judges must set a hearing within five days of a capias arrest.
This uniform standard will benefit those who work in the criminal system. The law creates simple, clear guidelines for attorneys, magistrates, and judges.
Last year, jail bills cost counties $45 million. Reducing the number of days people wait for a hearing will save money that could be invested in those counties.
Further, the new law may ease the burden on corrections staff, who last year processed 38,000 jails admissions across 10 regional jails. Any law that reduces jail overcrowding also reduces the stress and burden on people working in those facilities.
Most importantly, the new law’s uniform standard will protect people from the harms of incarceration. Just a few days in jail can be devastating to a person’s health, family, and stability. Research has shown that people in jail are at greater risk of job loss and reduced future earnings, experiencing homelessness, and losing custody of their children.
Congress is currently negotiating an increase in the “debt ceiling,” which must be raised to prevent catastrophic economic consequences.
Previously Congress has always acted when called upon to raise the debt limit. Since 1960, Congress has acted 78 separate times to permanently raise, temporarily extend, or revise the definition of the debt limit – 49 times under Republican presidents and 29 times under Democratic presidents. Congressional leaders in both parties have recognized that this is necessary.
But now, Republican lawmakers are seeking to hold critical public programs–and the U.S. economy–hostage by trying to extract painful cuts in exchange for raising the debt ceiling. This would have hugely harmful impacts on West Virginians who rely on Medicaid, SNAP, TANF, and other programs.
Take action today to urge our U.S. Senators to pass a clean debt ceiling increase without cuts to critical programs. You can send them a message here.
Learn more about what’s at stake in these recent pieces from our colleagues at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:
WVCBP executive director Kelly Allen was interviewed on a recent episode of Wild and Wonderful Women to speak about the need for paid leave in the Mountain State and how paid leave programs would allow more West Virginians the flexibility to care for themselves and their loved ones when the need arises.
Listen to the episode here.
Would you like to learn more about the status of infant and maternal mortality/morbidity in the Mountain State or share how it has impacted your life or the lives of your loved ones? Join our community conversation on July 21, 2023 at 12pm. All are welcome, particularly Black families and families of color who’ve experienced infant and maternal loss, inaccessible or biased health care, or are passionate about these issues. We are grateful for your voices and expertise.
We hope to see you in July!
To learn more about the status of infant and maternal mortality in West Virginia, see our recent blog post here.
Join us Saturday, June 17 at the second annual Charleston Juneteenth Festival!
The event will feature a parade, local artists and food vendors, a community choir, Mr. and Miss Juneteenth (KG-2nd, 3rd-5th, 6th-8th, 9th-12th) crownings, line dancing, a kids zone, and more.
Learn more and RSVP here.
Dr. Jerica Wesley from Marshall University and Dr. Lauri Andress from Andress & Associates are seeking volunteers for a research study to learn more from West Virginia women and birthing people about their health care experiences. Currently there is little state-level data publicly available about the disparate experiences of birthing people across race. This study seeks to empower West Virginians through the sharing of stories and to gather qualitative data to inform advocates and policymakers.
The WVCBP’s Elevating the Medicaid Enrollment Experience (EMEE) Voices Project seeks to collect stories from West Virginians who have struggled to access Medicaid across the state. Being conducted in partnership with West Virginians for Affordable Health Care, EMEE Voices will gather insight to inform which Medicaid barriers are most pertinent to West Virginians, specifically people of color.
Do you have a Medicaid experience to share? We’d appreciate your insight. Just fill out the contact form on this webpage and we’ll reach out to you soon. We look forward to learning from you!
You can watch WVCBP’s health policy analyst Rhonda Rogombé and West Virginians for Affordable Health Care’s Mariah Plante further break down the project and its goals in this FB Live.