Letter from Michelle Blake (4/28/2015)

(Letter transcript is below.)
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To whom it may concern:

The state of West Virginia claims they are fighting the war on drugs. Throughout the state the percentage of drug abuse has risen a considerable amount from just two years ago. Crime is on the rise and if a poll was taken you’d see the crimes are due to addicts supporting their habit.

Several counties throughout the region have come together and made it possible for individuals to enter either Drug Court Programs or Drug Report. The programs are beneficial for those accepting the help offered.

Many rehab facilities are spread throughout the state to accommodate certain needs and requirements. Often you’ll have a Circuit Court Judge recommend a drug addict to rehabilitate themselves by finding structure and guidance from the treatment center.

Then you have those that go straight to jail and most likely are repeat offenders. They have committed a crime in order to obtain their daily drug habit. The jails are overcrowded and very minimal classes are offered. Recently the Regional Jail Authority has told inmates we must pay $25 for a class if we want to take it.

Not every inmate has the funds to participate and I feel no one should have to choose between not having the funds and desperately wanting help.

There is no rehabilitation within these facilities you must be on a waiting list for D.O.C. classes and close to your parole date before your eligible for any of the required classes.

I have sat for 25 months in the Regional Jail and I’ve seen people come and go. I’ve witnessed people being treated un-humanely by staff. As of March 2015 I have a total of eight years spent in the jails. I have been an addict since 2000 and not one time have I been offered any type of treatment. I have become angry, bitter and even depressed. What is wrong with me, why am I different from anyone that is offered the chance to get help.

Is their a criteria one must meet? If so I’d like to know. The Capitol talks about, crime and the fight on drugs and getting laws passed for non-violent offenders to be offered an alternative sentence. In 25 months I’ve not seen any progress, just talk and I’m tired of feeling helpless. I hope to find someone that can hear my words.

People often talk about respect for basic human rights and the need for the punishment to fit the crime. This is certainly an important part of prison policy and it deserves great attention. However this is not enough if it does not include a genuine commitment to bring about rehabilitation and re-entry back into communities.

Without rehabilitation as our goal, incarceration becomes just a way of incapacitation and revenge, which harms both the prisoner and the society. Quote from – Pope Francis

Michelle Blake
Tygart Valley Regional