One voice for the Office of Sheriff
The National Sheriffs’ Association is now partnering with The Pew Charitable Trusts’ Public Safety Performance Project (PSPP). PSPP and its partners provide nonpartisan research, analysis, and assistance to states interested in exploring sentencing and corrections reforms in the criminal and juvenile justice system that will reduce both reoffending rates and prison spending. The project does not advocate preset solutions, but rather collaborates in partnership with state policy leaders and criminal justice stakeholders to develop data-driven policy options based on analysis of the state’s particular challenges and lessons learned from other states. Nearly 25 states have worked with PSPP and its partners to develop policies that hold offenders accountable, improve public safety and control corrections costs. NSA and PSPP look forward to collaborating nationally on data-driven solutions that will achieve better returns for the country’s public safety dollars. More information on PSPP can be found on their website.
Mississippi Enacts Legislation to Improve Public Safety, Ensure Certainty in Sentencing, and Control Corrections Costs
Between 1983 and 2013, Mississippi’s prison population grew by 300 percent to more than 22,400 inmates; without a change in policy, the state projected that the incarcerated population would grow by 1,951 inmates at a cost of $266 million over 10 years. With the assistance of The Pew Charitable Trusts, Mississippi conducted an extensive review of data which revealed that nonviolent offenders and those revoked for probation or parole violations accounted for a large and growing share of Mississippi’s prison population. In addition, a 28 percent increase in sentence lengths from 2002 to 2012 led to longer average prison stays, even while the percent of the sentence served by Mississippi offenders dropped by 22 percent. Finally, courts had few alternatives at their disposal for lower-level nonviolent offenders. In response, state policymakers developed recommendations aimed at refocusing prison space on violent and career criminals, strengthening community supervision, and ensuring certainty and clarity in sentencing. These recommendations were codified in H.B. 585, which passed with large bipartisan majorities in both legislative chambers and was signed into law by Governor Phil Bryant on March 31, 2014. This legislation is expected to avert all of Mississippi’s projected prison growth over the coming decade, saving taxpayers $266 million in prison expenditures, and restoring certainty and clarity to Mississippi’s sentencing system. The savings achieved will allow corrections dollars to be redirected into community supervision and programs proved to reduce recidivism. More information on Mississippi’s reforms can be found here.
Idaho Adopts a Public Safety Package that Will Reduce Recidivism and Contain the Cost of Corrections
This past March, Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter signed into law a bill aimed at improving public safety, reducing recidivism and slowing growth in Idaho’s prison population. The legislation was unanimously approved by both the Idaho House and Senate and received widespread support from criminal justice system stakeholders. With the assistance of the Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center, The Pew Charitable Trusts and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), Idaho identified three challenges confronting its criminal justice system: (1) revolving prison doors, with offenders getting out only to reoffend and return; (2) inefficient use of prison space; and (3) insufficient oversight to ensure that state-funded recidivism-reduction strategies were yielding the intended outcomes. The bill includes provisions for strengthening probation and parole supervision practices and programs to reduce recidivism; structuring parole to make more productive use of prison space; tailoring sanctions for violations of supervision; and assessing, tracking, and ensuring the success of recidivism-reduction strategies. If implemented appropriately, Senate Bill 1357 will help the state avert up to $288 million in new prison spending over the next five years. Of those savings, $33 million is recommended for reinvestment back into probation and parole officer training, more officers to supervise probationers and parolees, community-based substance use treatment, and improvements to the victim restitution collection process. Read more about Idaho’s recent efforts here.