West Virginia

Speaking truth to power

Storm Coleman in WV

Storm Coleman testifies in front of West Virginia’s Select Committee on Children and Families.

To people who criticize welfare and disability recipients in West Virginia, 16-year-old Storm Coleman suggests a visualization exercise: “Picture yourself in my mom’s shoes.”

“Imagine that you’re overweight, or you’re in pain all day, you can’t walk around, and you have three kids to provide for, and no job will hire you either because you’re disabled or ’cause you’re overqualified—’cause my mom is really smart.”

Making affordable health care a reality in West Virginia

The Case for Medicaid Expansion cover

Cover for The Case for Medicaid Expansion, shot by AFSC's West Virginia Economic Justice Project staff member Beth Spence

Thousands of West Virginians breathed a sigh of relief when Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin announced a long-awaited decision to expand Medicaid coverage for low-income workers under the Affordable Care Act. According to Gov. Tomblin, “We anticipate expansion will allow us to provide insurance coverage to approximately 91,500 working West Virginians, significantly reducing the number of uninsured.” Some estimates of the number of people covered are much higher.

The Case for Medicaid Expansion

The Case for Medicaid Expansion Cover

Cover for The Case for Medicaid Expansion, shot by AFSC's West Virginia Economic Justice Project staff member Beth Spence.

We believe expansion of the Medicaid program offers the best opportunity for low-income working West Virginians to qualify for affordable health care. It is our hope that this publication will help in the effort to make affordable health care a reality for all our citizens.

Rick Wilson & Beth Spence
American Friends Service Committee
West Virginia Economic Justice Project
March 2013

Coal-country teenager wants better resources to keep peers in school

Kyra Wells

ACE participant Kyra Wells.

In late February Kyra Wells, a sophomore at Logan High School in West Virginia, was at the State Capitol, meeting with staff of Governor Tomblin. She brought up an issue that is on her mind and on the minds of many of her peers in rural Appalachia: teen pregnancy.         

“A lot of young women are getting pregnant,” Kyra said. “What could you do to prevent it?”

Youth asks West Virginia to reform prisons, for children's sake

Jasmine talking to Channel 13

Jasmine Murphy, sophmore at Logan High School, speaking up for prison reform 

Editor's note: Not long after Jasmine addressed the legislature, SB 379—the state's prison overcrowding billwas passed. It gives judges the authority to grant early releases to nonviolent offenders, categorizes offenders in terms of risks vs. needs and treating them appropriately, and addresses technical parole violations that shorten time spent back in prison.

“I want to share with you a little bit about my life because I hope that maybe if I speak up, people who make the decisions that affect so many people’s lives will listen.”

The Growing Problems of the Prison System

Putting prison overcrowding in perspective:

According to the Bureau for Justice Statistics, the number of adult federal and state prison inmates increased from 139 per 100,000 residents in 1980 to 502 per 100,000 in 2009 — an increase of 261 percent. Over two million Americans are now incarcerated in prisons or jails and the total number of Americans under some form of penal supervision (including jail, prison, parole and probation) is over 7.2 million.

Stemming the Tide: The Racial and Economic Impacts of West Virginia's Prison System

Stemming the Tide Cover

Photo © Cico

Despite little growth in either its population or crime rate, West Virginia has seen a marked increase in the number of people housed in its corrections facilities. As the state's prisons become overcrowded, West Virginia is facing a corrections crisis that not only impacts the state's budget but also the low-income and minority communities that are disproportionately impacted by drug addiction and substance abuse issues that land them in prison instead of treatment programs.

Legacy of Inequality: Racial and Economic Diparities in West Virginia

Legacy of Inequality Cover

Cover photo credits: Tony Clark, Jane Dillard, Edna Green, James Hagwood, Joan Hairston, Ben Shahn

The report, “Legacy of Inequality: Racial and Economic Disparities in West Virginia” includes a sobering analysis of Census and other data conducted by the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy, the Partnership of African-American Churches and the American Friends Service Committee.

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