Blog Posts > The State of Reentry and Barriers for Returning Citizens in West Virginia
May 14, 2021

The State of Reentry and Barriers for Returning Citizens in West Virginia

Across the United States, citizens returning from prisons and jails face numerous obstacles as they reintegrate into their communities, including finding steady employment and stable housing, obtaining reliable transportation, and navigating the requirements of community supervision. The challenge in overcoming these obstacles is heightened in West Virginia, a rural state with limited access to transportation and living wage jobs, as well as little coordinated reentry support among state and local agencies and nonprofits.

Our new report, The State of Reentry and Barriers for Returning Citizens in West Virginia, written in partnership with the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), explores these reentry challenges, as well as the efforts being made by community groups to help returning citizens successfully transition back into mainstream society. This report, which includes two distinct parts, was co-authored by WVCBP’s criminal justice policy analyst, Quenton King, and the director of AFSC West Virginia’s Economic Justice Project, Rick Wilson.

Part 1 of the report, by King, focuses on key issues that formerly incarcerated people have long faced in West Virginia and provides policy recommendations that could improve the reentry process across the state.

Part 2, written by Wilson, provides a closer look into the lives of people who have or are currently experiencing reentry or who work to make reentry a less daunting task for our state’s returning citizens. To write this portion of the report, Wilson interviewed a number of people directly impacted by incarceration and directly involved in reentry service provision, and he relies heavily on quotes from these individuals.

Read the full report here.

Both parts of this piece explore the incredible and much-needed work being done by West Virginia Council of Churches‘ broad network of Reentry Councils to ease the process of reentry for formerly incarcerated people in the Mountain State. You can learn more about the councils here.

Are Unemployment Benefits Causing a Labor Shortage, or is the Economy Adjusting After a Pandemic?

Last week, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released the April jobs report, showing that job growth slowed significantly in April and raising concerns about the economy.

Following these disappointing jobs numbers were anecdotes from businesses claiming to struggle to find workers willing to work, particularly in the restaurant industry. “Generous” unemployment benefits were quickly blamed, with the argument that with the enhanced $300 week in unemployment benefits from the CARES ACT/American Rescue Plan, too many workers were content to collect unemployment rather than go back to work, creating a “labor shortage” where “demand for workers is greater than the supply of those willing to get back into the labor force.” However, the economic data shows that while there are some signs of tightness in the labor market, there are still more job seekers than jobs available, and the economy is adjusting after the huge shock caused by a global pandemic.

The federal enhancements to the unemployment system are continuing to ease the transition, reduce hardship, boost spending, and contribute to the recovery, while also improving the labor market by encouraging higher wages for jobs that have been made harder and riskier because of the pandemic. Prematurely ending these benefits based on tired and discredited claims that people don’t want to work — as has already been suggested by Governor Justice — would do little to boost employment, and instead would needlessly hurt struggling workers and undermine the state’s economy and recovery.

Read Sean’s full blog to learn more.

Economic Supports in American Families Plan are Historic Opportunity for WV

The American Families Plan framework as outlined by the Biden Administration represents the single biggest investment in the economic security of workers and families since FDR’s New Deal.

Two specific policies, permanent expansions of both the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC), will directly increase the household incomes of hundreds of thousands of workers and families across West Virginia, as well as correct two of the more inequitable features of the federal tax code that existed prior to the COVID-19 national emergency.

Read Seth’s full blog for details.

For more on what West Virginia stands to gain from President Biden’s recovery plan, check out the infographic below.

Help Us Combat Food Insecurity in the Mountain State!

The Food for All coalition is encouraging Senators Manchin and Capito to vote to pass the American Families Plan and provide critical support to address food insecurity and poverty in West Virginia. This initiative would significantly reduce the food access barriers and burdens faced by hundreds of thousands of households in our state.

Whether you are a food system practitioner, a health care or nutrition professional, a person directly impacted by hunger, or even just a concerned constituent, you are welcome to add your name to our letter and strengthen the impact of our advocacy. 

You can view the letter and add your name here until Saturday, May 15 at 5pm ET. Please feel free to circulate within your networks!

EMEE Voices Project Launch

The Elevating the Medicaid Enrollment Experiences (EMEE) Voices project centers on collecting stories from West Virginians who have struggled to access Medicaid across the state. Watch WVCBP’s health policy analyst Rhonda Rogombé and West Virginians for Affordable Health Care’s Mariah Plante break down the new project and its goals in this FB live from Wednesday.

Deadline to Apply for 2021 Virtual Summer Policy Institute Extended Until June 1

WVCBP’s Summer Policy Institute (SPI) is an annual event for college students, graduate students, and high school youth interested in bettering West Virginia through policy change. SPI brings together highly qualified traditional and non-traditional applicants to build policy knowledge, leadership skills, and networks. 

Attendees participate in interactive sessions where they learn the basics of data, policy, and state government and build their organizing and advocacy skills. Throughout the convening, attendees work in small groups to identify and develop policy proposals to shape the future they want to see in West Virginia, culminating in team “policy pitches” to state legislators and policy professionals. Many SPI attendees have gone on to continue advocating for their policy idea and to hold internships with West Virginia non-profits and in state government.

Applications for SPI are being considered through June 1. Further details and link to apply here.

Paid Leave Works for WV Story Collection Effort

Paid Leave Works for WV, which launched last week, is a broad coalition of stakeholders focused on advocating for a robust paid family and medical leave policy that ensures no one has to choose between their job and caring for themselves or a loved one.

The coalition is looking to collect stories from across the Mountain State! If you and your family have benefited from paid leave or have struggled due to lack of access to paid leave, please share your story and help us advocate to make this policy available for all West Virginians. We encourage you to share the form with relevant friends and family members, too!

The WVCBP is a proud member of this new coalition. To stay up to date on the coalition’s work, follow them on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

For more on the importance of paid leave and how it can help more women remain in the workforce, check out this recent article featuring insight from WVCBP executive director Kelly Allen.

Hundreds of Millions of Federal Aid Dollars Heading to WV, How do YOU Think it Can be Best Spent?

In the next several weeks, the first of $677 million will be distributed to county and city governments throughout West Virginia. The goal of this money is to support local efforts to recover from the widespread devastation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, but how the money is spent will largely be up to the local government in question. With your help, we can create a list of priorities that center the needs of those most impacted, and a group of folks to advocate for the aid that is most needed.

We want to hear from YOU.

How do you think your local government could spend this funding? What areas of your city have suffered the most from the pandemic? What kinds of investments will help your community long term? Let us know by filling out this survey.

There are no wrong answers, and please share this survey with anyone whose input you’d like to see considered. We appreciate your thought and time!

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