CHARLESTON -- The Administrative Director of the state's court system has been appointed to serve on the Council of State Government's Justice Center Board of Directors.
Steve Canterbury said he is eager to see what is happening in court systems in other states.
"They are involved with working with various specific issues of vital interest to states," said Canterbury, who will attend his first board meeting in September. "A number of those issues have coordinated with things that are on my resume.
"I am looking forward to using our experiences ... to inform the board's efforts. I know that working with such a diverse group of national experts will benefit my state and others by advancing the best thinking on complex criminal justice issues."
According to the CSG, Canterbury joins a bipartisan group of legislators, court and law enforcement officials and members of several governors' cabinets from corrections and health and human services agencies to serve on the board. Together, they guide projects the Justice Center administers, including the Criminal Justice/Mental Health Consensus Project and the Re-Entry Policy Council. Additional issue areas that the Justice Center is exploring are youth violence and the frequent use of emergency services by people with acute substance abuse disorders.
State officials across the country have used the findings and technical assistance provided through Justice Center projects to develop legislative initiatives. Congress has also worked closely with leaders of the board, drawing on recommendations provided by the Justice Center to shape national policy.
Canterbury said he didn't seek the position, which is a two-year term on the board.
"I just got a call out of the blue about it," he said. "I didn't apply for it.
"Once I learned that expenses are paid by this group and what all it entails – some meetings and phone conferences – I thought I could be of some use to them and it could be of use to West Virginia."
Canterbury's appointment to the 25-member board was announced last week by Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry, who is president of the CSG, and by Deborah Hudson, chairwoman of the CSG.
"From what I understand, we will be presented with a lot of reports and information from experts," Canterbury said. "One big issue right now is re-entry policy. That deals with the fact that 95 percent of people in prison will be back out on the streets, and they often end up back in trouble and being more costly than we'd like them to be in a variety of ways."
Canterbury said the board's information and recommendations then are sent to the CSG, where it is put on their agenda. And states then have ideas on how to handle these issues.
"For me, it's going to be interesting to hear what's going on around the nation," he said. "We'll see what we can learn and try to make West Virginia's system better.
"I'm curious about what they're doing in other states. We're doing alright here. We're not at the bottom of the heap. We can look across the table and see what other states are doing."
Canterbury cited a few examples.
"With child abuse and neglect, we need to work on that," he said. "But we've made strides. And West Virginia needs to take a hard look at how it handles mental hygiene issues.
"And we're way behind with the use of technology. We have a wonderful jail system. I think it's the best in the nation. The prisons don't have enough space, so there's overcrowding in jails. I want to see how other states handle that."
Before being named Administrator of the state court system in 2005, Canterbury served as the Executive Director of the Regional Jail Authority since June 1997.
In that role, he worked with Cabell Circuit Judge Dan O'Hanlon and the West Virginia court system on the "Courtroom of the Future," which allows inmates involved in court processes to appear through closed circuit technology without transporting them from the security of the regional jails.
He also was instrumental in the creation of Community Corrections projects throughout the state. He worked with Circuit Judge Martin Gaughan and Chief Probation Officer Jim Lee of Brooke, Hancock, and Ohio counties and the Legislature to author and ultimately pass the landmark Community Corrections Act of 2000.
While with the Regional Jail Authority, Canterbury directed the construction of more cells than anyone else in state history. He directed the building of six of West Virginia's 10 regional jails, which is the only statewide regional jail system in the nation.
The CSG's Justice Center is a national nonprofit organization that serves policymakers at the local, state, and federal levels from all branches of government. It provides practical, nonpartisan advice and consensus-driven strategies -- informed by available evidence -- to increase public safety and strengthen communities. The Justice Center has offices in New York City and Bethesda, Md., and is funded through contracts with and grants from federal agencies, state and local governments, and private foundations.
"We are delighted that Canterbury has been appointed to our board," said Mike Festa, Chairman of the Justice Center Board. "As a key voice on criminal justice policy in his state, Canterbury will make a great contribution to our work."
Canterbury's Administrative Office provides support to the Supreme Court of Appeals and the entire West Virginia court system, which includes about 1,175 elected officers and support personnel in all 55 counties.