Women’s History Month – Making History for the Wrong Reasons

The month of March is observed as Women’s History Month. But in the West Virginia criminal legal system, women are making history for the wrong reasons. West Virginia ranks ninth in the country for rates of incarcerating women, and female incarceration has grown 2,731% between 1978 to 2019. Nearly three-quarters (72.21%) of women incarcerated at Lakin Correctional Center […] Continue reading

Parental Rights: Part I

Suzanne Sellers, in a January 5, 2019 Letter to the Editor of the New York Times, thanks the paper for its apology to “crack mothers” who were demonized through journalism and the media with the popular tagline that stigmatized many substance using women and their children, “crack babies.” Ms. Sellers notes that she had been […] Continue reading

Redemptive Language

In capital case mitigations, carefully determined language choices are emphasized because words can be the only thing to remind a jury that your client is human, has remorse, and can change for the better despite committing a horrific crime. Word choices can help mitigate the effect of the harm caused to the victims while reminding […] Continue reading

WV Overdose Fatalities: Numbers are the Tool for Alternative Sentencing

West Virginia’s Department of Health and Human Resources Bureau for Public Health conducted a fatality review (2016 West Virginia Overdose Fatality Analysis) into all overdose deaths from 2016. Acknowledging that West Virginia has the most overdose deaths per capita, this evaluation and analysis was intended to better understand the gaps in service, missed opportunities, and […] Continue reading

Substance Use Disorder and a Defendant’s Ability to Prevent Relapse

In 2016, then-Surgeon General Vivek Murthy produced “Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health.” The extensive report addresses many aspects of addiction and concludes, among other things, that addiction is a brain disease with relapse rates similar to other health conditions such as hypertension and diabetes (all ranging between […] Continue reading

A New Issue in Competency?

In August 2016, Huntington experienced an overwhelming number of opioid overdoses – 27 in five hours with one death. The first responders attending to victims on the scene reported administering multiple Naloxone doses to revive those who had overdosed, and noted the lack of response to the life-saving medication from the victims. Later reports indicated […] Continue reading