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.”
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.
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
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?”
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 bill—was 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.”
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.
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.
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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