(11/27/2012)
The State of West Virginia is reportedly launching yet another study about the state's incarceration costs, with many West Virginia county taxpayers barely able to foot the costs.

The United States has the world's highest incarceration rate, reaching 25 percent of all the world's prisoners.

American taxpayers pay hundreds of millions of dollars funding increasingly overcrowded state and federal prisons.

Alan Elsner, a reporter and author, will speak about the nation's prison system on Saturday at the Woman's Club in Charleston - "What Prisons Are Doing to America and What Americans Can Do About It."

"We have an incarceration rate of five to seven times as high, as a proportion of population, than most of the world's industrial democracies," Elsner said.

"We have about one-quarter of all the world's prisoners." West Virginia has the second-largest percentage increase in its prison population in 2010 [of all 50 states].

Prison overcrowding in West Virginia increased from 1,500 prisoners in 1990 to about 6,500 in 2010" - more than four times.

Figures from the West Virginia Division of Corrections show 27.6 percent of all our state's prisoners were convicted of drug offenses.

The proportion of prisoners' convictions included: 29.1 percent for crimes against property, 21.7 percent for crimes against other people and 21.6 percent for actions against "public order.

Only 4 percent of all West Virginia prisoners have college or any post-high school education.

In addition, 28 percent never graduated from high school, while another 41 percent later earned General Educational Development diplomas.

Some earned their GEDs while serving time in prison.

"Solutions have everything to do with fixing our communities. I view imprisonment as a symptom and byproduct of poverty, not as an isolated issue," Elsner said.


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