Blog Posts > The State of Reentry and Barriers for Returning Citizens in West Virginia
May 13, 2021

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

This report was co-authored by WVCBP’s criminal justice analyst, Quenton King, and the director of AFSC West Virginia’s Economic Justice Project, Rick Wilson.

Read the full report here.

Introduction

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.

Lack of affordable and secure housing, medical treatment, and access to other vital resources are significant contributors to unsuccessful reentry and high recidivism. Past research in West Virginia found that 62 percent of people who had their parole revoked and were sent back to prison were in need of drug or alcohol treatment. Survey data from the West Virginia Council of Churches – Reentry Councils found that 85 percent of returning citizens seeking assistance list substance use treatment as a barrier to their reentry.

To reduce recidivism and to provide returning citizens with the best chances at success, West Virginia should invest taxpayer funding in a coordinated reentry support network. Part 1 of this report focuses on key issues that formerly incarcerated people have long faced in West Virginia and provides recommendations that could improve the reentry process across the state. Part 2 provides a closer look into the lives of people who have or are currently experiencing re-entry or who work to make reentry a less daunting task for our state’s returning citizens.

Key Findings

  • Returning citizens identified substance use treatment, employment, and transportation as the top barriers to reentry.
  • Technical parole and probation violations cost West Virginia an estimated $2 million in incarceration costs.
  • Twenty-two percent of the prison admissions between 2015 and 2019 were for probation or parole technical violations.
  • From 2009 to 2019, an average of 3,113 West Virginians exited prison per year.
  • Seventy-six percent of the returning citizens requesting assistance from the West Virginia Council of Churches during the study period were parents

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