House Speaker Rick Thompson, D-Wayne, and House Minority Leader Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha, come from different ends of the political spectrum, but they agree on one very important matter.
Neither wants to let people out of prison early just to save money. Both are trying to prevent that, and Thompson feels strongly that the prison reform effort needs bipartisan support.
The governor's proposal, which the state Senate passed unanimously, would allow non-violent offenders to leave prison early under a supervised release program.
"We can't address prison overcrowding by just releasing people from prison early," Thompson told the Daily Mail's Zack Harold.
West Virginia has been there and done that. A little more than 20 years ago, the state was putting convicted murderers on work release to hold down prison costs.
The price to save that money was steep. Convicted killers murdered Reginald T. Seamon Jr. and Alicia McCormick before the state banned killers from the work release program.
While non-violent offenders would not pose as big a threat to society, Thompson pointed out that a parole board already has turned down requests by these criminals for early release.
Armstead opposes the random release of inmates.
The issue crosses party lines as supporters of Democratic Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's reform includes senators from both parties and state Supreme Court Chief Justice Brent Benjamin, a Republican.
Their argument is that releasing inmates early under supervision is better than having inmates serve full terms and leave without supervision.
Surely the state could simply require post-prison supervision for non-violent offenders. The bill would do that with violent offenders who had served their full terms.
That both Thompson and Armstead are taking strong stands is encouraging. Public safety should be a non-partisan issue, one that legislators approach with great care. If the state errs, it should be on the side of caution.