Every person arrested is constitutionally entitled to a trial and, with few exceptions, bond.
“I share people’s frustration,” emphasized Rick Staton, Wyoming County prosecuting attorney.
Prioritizing is the most logical method to sentencing, Staton noted. Those who have no criminal record and/or the stolen property is recovered will likely get probation or home confinement.
“That’s statewide,” Staton said.
“I’m a believer in probation and home confinement.”
Offenders can’t violate probation or county officials move very quickly to have the probation rescinded and the offender is sent to jail, Staton emphasized.
The jails are so overcrowded, even when prisoners are sentenced to jail, they are released before their sentences can be served in order to relieve the jammed facilities.
Additionally, sending offenders to regional jails is so expensive, the costs are crippling already strapped county budgets.
As a result, day report centers, which provide non-violent offenders an opportunity to complete community service and education programs, have sprang up across the state. The centers are much less costly than regional jails.
Eighty-four percent of all offenses are related to illegal drug use — or the abuse of prescription drugs, Staton said.
There are three doctors in southern West Virginia — none of whom are in Wyoming County — who are responsible for about 40 percent of the drug problem, Staton noted.
“If we could close those three doctors down, then we could stop 40 percent of the drug problem,” Staton emphasized.
In the meantime, Staton believes, the state needs more treatment facilities. Currently, a drug user has to be clean before he/she can get into a treatment program.
“That doesn’t make any sense, does it?” Staton said.
“It’s not sexy to invest in treatment facilities,” he said of state funding. “We’re never going to break this cycle until we do.”
Regional jails offer no rehabilitation programs for drug offenders, Staton explained. If there is no rehabilitation or treatment, then the offender will, in all likelihood, commit another crime.
There are ways to change the chemical compound of prescription pain killers to make them less addictive.
“But that’s not cost effective,” Staton said.
“OxyContin was meant to be an end-of-life pain medication,” he emphasized, adding that people are now obtaining it for myriad complaints.
Staton emphasized all doctors and pharmacists in Wyoming County are cooperating in trying to reduce the problem.
Despite that, pain killers are easy to get and easy to sell, Staton said.
The current street price is about $125 per pill, he said.
“It’s easy to make $35,000 in a weekend,” Staton noted.
He cites as an example a teen who was arrested for selling narcotics and there were pictures of the teen surrounded by stacks of money.
“He had $18,000 in savings — in savings,” Staton said.
Now, we’re going to encourage him to go back to school, obtain his GED, and go to work at a minimum wage job, Staton said, when the teen is accustomed to having thousands of dollars in cash.
The answer, Staton believes, is two-fold. One: More prisons, not regional jails, that offer offenders rehabilitation and treatment to reduce their chances of re-offending.
Two: “We’ve got to get them help,” Staton emphasized.
Currently, however, there is no help until offenders make it to prison, but there is no room for them in the prisons.