By Lida Shepherd, American Friends Service Committee – WV Economic Justice Project
We started the 2023 legislative session with an incredible Leading for Justice Summit and Day of Action. Here are some of the beautiful faces of people who are working for justice with passion and persistence. They are walking the halls, meeting with lawmakers, and testifying in committee about pressing issues that people impacted by the carceral system are facing every day.
And now with the legislative session in full swing, here is a brief rundown of bills that we are watching.
Good bills we are pushing:
Bill # – Short description (committee references)
- SB 235 – Restoring voting rights for people on community supervision (Senate Judiciary) See Kenneth Matthews here testifying in Senate Judiciary subcommittee on Jan. 26th
- HB 3014 – Require Correctional Facilities to provide free feminine hygiene products (House Judiciary, then Finance)
- HB 2793 – Clarifies that in Mental Hygiene proceedings, “No application for involuntary hospitalization may be denied solely due to the incarceration of the individual to be examined.” (House Jails and Prisons Committee, then Judiciary)
- HB 2548 – DCR to issue no-cost, temporary ID within a week of release; valid at the DMV for 180 days from issuance (Passed Jails and Prisons committee! Judiciary next)
- HB 2879 – To provide a pay increase to state correctional workers in West Virginia (Passed Jails and Prisons committee. Finance next)
- SB 495 – Relating generally to correctional institutions and juvenile facilities; deeming certain video and audio recordings records and reports to be confidential and creating exceptions to confidentiality (Senate Judiciary) Mountain State Spotlight article here.
- HB 2276 – Issuing identification documents to homeless individuals residing at homeless shelters (House Judiciary)
- HB 2343 – Grant automatic expungement of criminal records in certain instances (House Judiciary)
- HB 3009 – Relating to voting rights of formerly incarcerated individuals (House Judiciary)
- HB 2981 – Prohibit the sheriff’s department from posting mug shot photos for an arrest (House Judiciary)
- HB 2962 – Second Look Sentencing Act (House Judiciary)
- SB 49 – Creating criminal offense for being under influence of controlled substance (Senate Judiciary)
- HB 2594 – Relating to death penalty for first degree murder (Jails and Prisons, then Judiciary)
- HB 2251 – Increasing penalties for sexual offenses (House Judiciary)
- SB 299 – Creating a new misdemeanor offense of unlawful entry, occupation, or retention of real property (Senate Judiciary)
- HB 2847 – To impose a life sentence on fentanyl dealers (To Prevention and Treatment of Substance Abuse then Judiciary)
*this is not an exhaustive list. There are many bad bills that have been introduced that would enhance penalties however these are ones that are either really bad and/or we anticipate moving.
IN THE NEWS:
Speaking truth to power – Kimberly Burks, mother of Quantez Burks, challenged Governor Jim Justice at a town hall last week at Tamarack, demanding answers for why so many people including her son are dying at Southern Regional Jail.
As another reminder of the human gifts that a brutal and violent carceral system is robbing from communities and from families every day, take a look at some of Tyre Nichols photography. Tyre Nichols was brutally beaten and killed by police officers in Memphis earlier this month. As reported by the Associated Press, an average of three people a day are killed by police officers. These deaths are not aberrations, they are endemic. Which is why it’s critically important we continue to take action together!
Upcoming opportunities to TAKE ACTION at the Capitol:
- Wednesday Feb 15th: Black Policy Day
- Thursday Feb 16th: Compassion Calls Us Day
- Thursday Feb 23rd: Reentry Day with WV Family of Convicted People
Finally, a friendly reminder that any day you would like to come work the halls with us, we will help set up a meeting with your legislator and familiarize you with the process. And as soon as we need calls or emails on a bill, we will be so grateful for you to answer the call.
Thank you for reading!