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Full Legislature passes Gov. Tomblin's jail crowding bill

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -

The West Virginia Legislature has passed a wide-ranging prison reform bill and sent it to Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin for his signature.

Senate Bill 371 focuses on enhanced post-release supervision and drug treatment for prisoners. It is estimated that those measures will help reduce re-offending and save the state $18 million next year.

The bill is expected to halt prison growth rates but not reduce current populations in the state's critically overcrowded prisons and jails.

The Senate agreed unanimously to the House version of the bill Saturday, April 13. The House of Delegates changed it to expand drug courts and give early release to non-violent offenders, but only at a judge's discretion. The Senate agreed with those changes and passed the bill on to Tomblin.

It is not known if the changes will be sufficient to keep the state from having to build a $200 million prison.

Tomblin's other comprehensive reform bill during this legislative session, Senate Bill 359, to revamp public education, has already been signed into law.

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