Residents in West Virginia may be aware of the First Step Act, a recent federal step toward criminal justice reform. However, it is also important to be aware of the many actions currently underway in the state of West Virginia specifically that are aiming to improve the lives of people accused of or convicted of criminal offenses.
As reported by Metro News, the director of the West Virginia chapter of Americans for Prosperity indicates that numerous bills have been introduced into the state legislature that may go a long way toward protecting the rights of defendants and improving their chances for a positive reintegration into society. The bills, it seems, may have support from both conservatives and liberals.
According to the ACLU of West Virginia, the criminal justice reform bills moving through the system currently run the gamut from the proposal to legalize marijuana for recreational purposes to the requirement to inform people of their voting rights within one week of them completing their sentences. One bill has already passed the House and is waiting for a vote in the Senate. If passed, this effort would expand eligibility of SNAP benefits to people who have been convicted of drug-related charges.
Allowing defendants to be released from custody while awaiting court dates without forcing them to pay high bail amounts is the subject of another bill. Two bills look to expand the laws surrounding expungements so that more people may be able to have their records expunged which would allow them to move forward in their lives.