West Virginia governor signs juvenile justice reform push to keep youth out of institutions

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CHARLESTON, West Virginia — Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin has signed a sweeping juvenile justice reform bill that he has touted.

The Democrat approved the measure Thursday. He called it a $4.5 million initiative to keep youthful offenders in community programs and out of state institutions.

Tomblin has said his task force's suggestions, which shaped the bill, would reduce state juvenile justice facility populations by at least 40 percent by 2020, while reducing projected costs by more than $59 million.

Truancy diversion specialists will be in every county and youth reporting centers will expand statewide. Substance abuse recovery services, mental health programs and family therapies will grow.

West Virginia nearly doubled the rate it sent youths to juvenile facilities from 1997 to 2011, trending opposite of decreases nationwide. The state's rate increase was the highest.

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