A primary function of West Virginia’s jail system is to house pre-trial defendants, but despite recent bail reform, jail incarceration is surging and this growth is burdening the counties responsible for paying the costs.
County spending on jails is rising along with rising jail population, but between 2014 and 2019, jail billing rose nearly seven times faster. This displays the significant and growing gap between the true costs of jail incarceration and counties’ ability to pay.
This gap is propelling a burgeoning jail debt crisis with the potential to cripple county budgets, especially now as the pandemic recession pushes many county budgets into deficit due to falling tax revenues. And unless West Virginia policymakers pursue significant reforms to the county jail system, the crisis is expected to persist.
Read Quenton’s full issue brief.