WELLSBURG -– State Supreme Court Chief Justice Brent Benjamin and Gov. Joe Manchin have signed administrative orders establishing the Northern Panhandle Re-Entry Court.
The ceremony took place today in the courtroom of First Circuit Judge Martin J. Gaughan in the Brooke County Courthouse. The Northern Panhandle Re-Entry Court is a joint pilot program between the state Supreme Court and the West Virginia Division of Corrections.
The Re-Entry Court is designed to reduce the population in state prisons by providing early release for eligible offenders who have serious addiction or mental health issues. Participants are required to attend at least a year of intensive out-patient treatment sessions, under the supervision of a parole officer, and to regularly appear in court.
Participants are chosen by the Re-Entry Court supervising judge, based on recommendations from the Division of Corrections and Parole Board. No one who has been convicted of a sexual offense is eligible. Those who have escaped or attempted to escape from a correctional institution and those who have recently committed a serious rule violation in a correctional facility also will be barred from participating.
For the pilot program, all participants must reside in the First Circuit of Brooke, Hancock, or Ohio Counties.
The presiding judge of the Re-Entry Court provides each participant with the same supervision and mentoring as is currently provided in Drug Courts. Drug Courts throughout West Virginia defer offenders into treatment and rehabilitation programs before they go to prison while the Re-Entry Court serves those who have already served part or all of a prison sentence.
The Re-Entry Court program will have three phases, each involving treatment and education. The third phase also includes re-establishing employment and housing. Rewards and court-imposed sanctions are used to encourage participants to establish a sober lifestyle.