Two groups that offer alternatives to incarceration joined at a luncheon recently where speakers shared exactly what the programs are about and testimonials were given by individuals who benefited from the groups.
The Berkeley/Jefferson Day Report Center offers an alternative to incarceration for individuals who have been convicted of non-violent offenses It has been active since 2009.
The program currently offers classes including drug and alcohol, life skills, batterer intervention and anger management. Executive Director Ronda Eddy spoke at the luncheon indicating that the program is "motivational" as it provides a reason for participants to follow the rules, to keep from being incarcerated.
"It is a more cost-effective program, as well," Eddy said.
Also on the program for the luncheon was Del. Stephen Skinner who spoke on the Justice Reinvestment Act which will help bring needed funds for programs geared toward treatment rather than a mindset of "locking someone up and throwing away the key," Skinner said.
According to a realse provided via Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's office, he has said,, "Through an extensive support system, we can help individuals transition from a correctional setting to their new lives in communities throughout our state. Providing treatment options needed to fight substance abuse as well as strong supervisory programs will reduce the likelihood of bad behavior escalating into more serious crimes and will reduce our recidivism rate-improving public safety in our communities."
Skinner elaborated, saying that by implementing the Reinvestment Act, the number of incarcerations would at least hold steady rather than increase by 2018. He spoke on funding for rehabilitation efforts and drug programs.
"I am here today to say, 'Hang on.' things are going to change in significant ways in West Virginia via drug rehab, mental health care and other ways."
The Community Alternatives to Violence program also offers an alternative to jail time for some offenders. President of the Board of Directors, Larry Schultz, told attendees that two-thirds of domestic homicides occur after the abused spouse leaves; that is why those who are abused often do not press charges.
"Fundamentally, this is a men's problem," Schultz said, referring to abuse. The 17-year-old Community Alternatives to Violence program holds abusers accountable.
Individuals in the program educate individuals about their problems and and provide tools to change the outcomes of their behavior. One individual who had been enrolled in the program shared, "It's not just a program, it's the people, the instructors, who give tools to change.
Sean Noland, with the West Virginia Division of Justice and Community Services rounded out the event providing staggering statistics about the economic cost involved in prescription drug abuse alone.
$62 billion is spent yearly on the national level," he shared. "West Virginia's costs are $393 million."
"To make someone accept accountability is much greater challenge than simply punishing them," he said of the alternatives to incarceration.. He went on to say that those who do face incarceration also need follow up care after their release.
"I never met anyone who learned how to not be abusive in jail," Schultz concluded at the end of the program.