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Overpopulation becoming a problem for West Virginia jails

In West Virginia jails, there are growing problems as the jail population reaches a new record number. (MGN Online)

In West Virginia jails, there are growing problems as the jail population reaches a new record number.

That’s created security and money issues and could lead to civil rights lawsuits that could mandate changes the state might not be able to afford.

The jail population is now frequently more than 5,000 inmates or about 800 more prisoners than there are beds.

The supreme court recently asked judges and magistrates to take a look at who's locked up and to consider lowering bonds on some of the 2,500 people who are in jail and awaiting trial.

“And maybe they can look at their bonds and see who can be released and who cannot. That was the purpose of that letter. You know, I’m not talking interfering with a judge or a magistrate's right to sentence or even set bonds. I wanted them to take a look at the number of pre-trial felons and especially misdemeanants that have not made bond. They're still in jail and it's costing the taxpayers lots of money. So, I just asked them to reexamine that. That was the purpose of the letter,” Supreme Court administrator Gary Johnson said.

Not helping cut the number of inmates is the parole grant rate. It's the lowest it's been in six years. Nearly 1,200 convicted felons are still housed in jails because there is no room for them in prison.

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