West Virginia Public Broadcasting – Last spring, a small, bipartisan group of West Virginia lawmakers embarked on an enormous task — the rewriting of several hundred pages of criminal law. Read the full article.
Every one to two weeks, the five House delegates would meet over a video conferencing app to consider a new section of crimes. They tackled everything from homicide to the improper disposal of an abandoned refrigerator, from human trafficking to computer hacking.
They also created a new, tiered sentencing system for the hundreds of penalties listed in Chapter 61 of state code for “Crimes and Their Punishment.”
“This was billed from the beginning as one of the top items that would be run and dealt with,” said former Del. Joe Canestraro, one of the group members. Canestraro, a Democrat, is now Marshall County prosecutor.
But instead, House Bill 2017 — a 400-page culmination of the group’s work — was among the first introduced and the last considered, passing the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday, March 25, just one day before the deadline for bills to be sent to the House floor.
Stakeholders in the criminal justice system, most prominently including the West Virginia Prosecuting Attorneys Association but also organizations for victims rights, the formerly incarcerated and alternative sentencing, say they weren’t given a chance to weigh in on legislation that will drastically alter their jobs and the experiences of those they work with.
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