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Email: Chapter 15, Article 9C


§15-9C-1. Legislative findings.

The Legislature finds and declares that there is:

(1) A need for fair and uniform sentencing;

(2) A need for research on issues regarding sentencing in order to promote a fuller understanding of the efficient, just, and fair operation of this state’s criminal justice system;

(3) A need for establishing priorities with regard to the severity of the criminal offenses; and

(4) A need to use the limited correctional resources in the state in a manner best able to fulfill the goals of criminal punishment, rehabilitation, and protection of the public while preventing disparate treatment of offenders based on racial, ethnic, cultural, economic, or other factors related to the social status of the offender.

§15-9C-2. Creation of Sentencing Commission; purpose; composition.

(a) The West Virginia Sentencing Commission is hereby created as a subcommittee of the Governor’s Committee on Crime, Delinquency, and Correction.

(b) The purpose of the commission is to promote a fuller understanding of this state’s criminal justice sentencing system, and shall include the review and research of issues of sentence length imposed, actual sentence length served, parole eligibility, parole revocation, determinate or indeterminate sentences, availability of alternatives to incarceration for certain offenses, and the respective roles that each of these and other criminal sanction issues may play in the increased demand for prison bed space.

(c) The commission consists of the following members, who serve without compensation:

(1) The Secretary of the Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety, or his or her designee;

(2) Two prosecuting attorneys, or assistant prosecuting attorneys, from two different counties chosen by the President of the West Virginia Prosecuting Attorneys Association;

(3) Two public defenders, or assistant public defenders, or panel attorneys who primarily do court-appointed criminal representation, from two different judicial circuits chosen by the Director of the Public Defender Services;

(4) One representative from the West Virginia Chief of Police Association who shall be chosen by the executive director of that organization;

(5) One representative from the West Virginia Sheriff’s Association who shall be chosen by the executive director of that organization;

(6) Two representatives from the West Virginia Judicial Association who are current or senior status circuit court judges and chosen by the executive committee of that organization, who shall serve as ex officio members;

(7) One member of the West Virginia Association on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors who shall be chosen by the president of the organization;

(8) Two members of the West Virginia Legislature, one chosen by the Speaker of the House and one chosen by the President of the Senate, who shall serve as ex officio members of the commission; and

(9) One professor of law with experience in the practice and teaching of criminal law appointed by the Dean of the West Virginia University College of Law.

(d) Each member serves a two-year term, except for the ex officio members who serve as long as they hold their respective offices.

(e) The chairperson of this commission shall be elected by the other members of the commission. The first meeting shall be chaired by the Director of the Division of Administrative Services of the Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety.

(f) Six members of the commission shall constitute a quorum.

(g) The Director of the Division of Administrative Services serves as executive director of the commission and the division shall provide administrative services to the commission.

§15-9C-3. Powers and duties of the commission.

(a) The Sentencing Commission established pursuant to this article:

(1) May request information, data, and reports from any officer or agency of the state government, as required by the commission and as may be produced consistent with other laws;

(2) Issue invitations requesting the attendance and testimony of witnesses and the production of any evidence that relates directly to a matter with respect to which the commission or any member of the commission is empowered to make a determination under this article;

(3) Shall establish a research and development program within the commission for the purpose of:

(A) Serving as a clearinghouse and information center for the collection, preparation, and dissemination of information on sentencing practices; and

(B) Assisting and serving in a consulting capacity to state courts, departments, and agencies in the development, maintenance, and coordination of sound sentencing practices;

(4) Shall collect data obtained from studies, research, and the empirical experience of public and private agencies concerning the sentencing processes;

(5) Shall publish data concerning the sentencing process;

(6) Shall collect and disseminate information concerning sentences actually imposed;

(7) Shall collect and disseminate information regarding effectiveness of sentences imposed;

(8) Shall make recommendations to the Legislature concerning modification or enactment of sentencing and correctional statutes which the commission finds to be necessary and advisable to carry out an effective, humane, and rational sentencing policy;

(9) Shall establish a plan and timetable to collect and disseminate information relating to incapacitation, recidivism, deterrence, and overall effectiveness of sentences imposed;

(10) Shall provide recommendations to the Legislature for the creation of programs and establishment of facilities in the state that provide how the state can best shift its expenditures in a revenue-neutral fashion away from incarceration to treatment programs, facilities, and related services;

(11) Shall conduct a comprehensive review and study of national and local trends and programs that have proven successful in addressing and overcoming addiction and identifying the nature of the causes of addiction and criminal behavior related to drug addiction; and

§15-9C-4. Objectives of the commission.

In performing its powers and duties, the commission shall pursue the following objectives:

(1) Promoting sentencing that more accurately reflects the time that an offender will actually be incarcerated;

(2) Reducing unwarranted disparity in sentences for offenders who have committed similar offenses and have similar criminal histories;

(3) Preserving meaningful judicial discretion in the imposition of sentences and sufficient flexibility to permit individualized sentences;

(4) Ensuring that sentencing judges in every jurisdiction in the state are able to impose the most appropriate criminal penalties, including correctional options programs for appropriate nonviolent offenders; and

(5) Determining whether the state needs to set out all criminal offenses in terms of priority and in order of severity and harm to society, and to provide alternatives to incarceration for certain offenses.

§15-9C-5. Recommendations to Legislature.

(a) In addition to the dissemination of information set forth in §15-9C-3 of this code, the commission shall provide, on or before January 1, 2022, an assessment and report to the Legislature as its findings, analysis, and recommendations, if any, as to the state’s sentencing and correctional laws and policies.

(b) As part of the report set forth in subsection (a) of this section, the commission may, or at the request of the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Delegates, shall make recommendations regarding the following issues:

(1) Whether the state should adopt discretionary sentencing guidelines and, if so, what type of discretionary sentencing guidelines should be adopted;

(2) Whether the state should alter the manner in which an inmate obtains credit for good time;

(3) Whether the state needs to take action to ensure that there is a coordinated system of alternatives to incarceration at the state and county levels and, if so, what action should be taken;

(4) Whether the state should establish additional guidelines and procedures to examine or reexamine the reduction of long-term sentences of individuals who are not a danger to public safety; and

(5) Any other matters relating to state and local laws and policies governing sentencing, parole, mandatory supervision, and correctional alternative programs.

§15-9C-6. Sunset.

The Sentencing Commission Subcommittee established in this article terminates on June 30, 2023, unless continued by the Legislature