Since February 2014, the National Sheriffs’ Association has partnered 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.
Since 2001, at least 30 states have raised their felony theft thresholds, or the value of stolen money or goods above which prosecutors may charge theft offenses as felonies, rather than misdemeanors. According to a new Pew report, increased felony thresholds have not resulted in higher property crime or larceny rates. See “The Effects of Changing State Theft Penalties.”
The Pew Charitable Trusts releases three new reports on “justice reinvestment” in Arkansas, Massachusetts, and North Dakota. The reports are available below.
Prison Time Surges for Federal Inmates
New report from The Pew Charitable Trusts indicates the average length of time served by federal inmates more than doubled from 1988 to 2012, rising from 17.9 to 37.5 months, and costing taxpayers an estimated $2.7 billion in 2012 alone. Read the full report here.
New Report from Pew: Imprisonment and Crime Rates Fell in 30 States Over 5 Years
From 2009 to 2014, the nation’s imprisonment rate fell 7 percent and the total crime rate declined 15 percent.
New Publication from Pew: Federal Drug Sentencing Laws Bring High Cost, Low Return
More than 95,000 federal prisoners are serving time for drug-related offenses—up from fewer than 5,000 in 1980. Changes in drug crime patterns and law enforcement practices played a role in this growth, but federal sentencing laws enacted during the 1980s and 1990s also have required more drug offenders to go to prison—and stay there much longer—than three decades ago. These policies have contributed to ballooning costs: the federal prison system now consumes more than $6.7 billion a year, or roughly 1 in 4 dollars spent by the U.S Justice Department.
Federal Drug Sentencing Laws Bring High Cost, Low Return (pdf)
Victims’ Voices for Reform on Changes to State Sentencing Laws
In a growing number of states, crime victims and survivors are actively participating in the development of sentencing and corrections policies and funding decisions to help prevent others from being victimized. The reforms, many of which are part of the Justice Reinvestment Initiative (JRI), use data-driven strategies to hold offenders accountable, control costs, and protect public safety. In several states, these changes also have helped improve victim services, including notification systems that provide timely updates about offenders’ status within the criminal justice system.
Four States Launch New Justice Reinvestment Initiatives
The States of Alaska, Kansas, Maryland, and Rhode Island launched new Justice Reinvestment Initiatives this summer as highlighted below:
On June 17, Alaska Governor Bill Walker, Senate President Kevin Meyer, House Speaker Mike Chenault, Chief Justice Dana Fabe, and Attorney General Craig Richards charged the Alaska Criminal Justice Commission with developing a comprehensive set of data-driven recommendations to increase public safety while limiting expected growth of the state’s prison budget.
Currently, Alaska spends one third of a billion dollars ($334 million) annually on corrections, up 50 percent since 2005, adjusting for inflation. The state’s prison population has grown by 27 percent over the past decade, far faster than the growth of the state’s resident population. Alaska’s prisons and jails are already filled to capacity. Without reform, new prison construction and contracting for out-of-state prison beds could cost Alaskans hundreds of millions of additional dollars. Finally, despite this prison population and cost, Alaskans are not getting a good return on their investment: nearly two out of every three inmates who leave Alaska’s prisons are back to prison or jail within three years.
Over the next seven months, the Commission will analyze the drivers of the prison population; study the research about what works to address criminal behavior; consult with criminal justice stakeholders; and develop a comprehensive package of reforms for consideration in the 2016 session.
The Commission members have decades of criminal justice experience and a diversity of perspectives. Along with legislators, judges, prosecutors and the Commissioner of Corrections, the group also includes representatives of victims and Alaska Natives, as well as the public defender. Alaska’s state leaders requested technical assistance from the public safety performance project at The Pew Charitable Trusts as a part of JRI. Pew will work directly with the Commission to provide nonpartisan research and data analysis in support of this initiative.
Links to news articles:
Empire Editorial: To fight rising prison costs, Alaska must reform
Alaska prison population rise due mostly to those awaiting trial
On June 11, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback, legislative leaders and Chief Justice Lawton Nuss announced the formation of a bipartisan panel that will examine Kansas’ juvenile justice system and recommend comprehensive reforms aimed at improving public safety and outcomes for youth. The launch of the inter-branch Juvenile Justice Workgroup marks the first critical step of a wide-ranging review of Kansas’s juvenile justice system. Following a model used successfully by many other states, the panel will conduct an intensive, data-driven analysis of the system, evaluating policies and practices to develop proposals for effective reforms. Formation of the Workgroup comes amid growing concerns about the effectiveness of the Kansas juvenile justice system, for juveniles and taxpayers alike. Some of these concerns have been raised recently by the Joint Committee on Corrections and Juvenile Justice, which provides legislative oversight for the criminal and juvenile justice systems.
Although juvenile commitment rates have declined in Kansas, the drop has not kept pace with national trends. The most recent national statistics show that while the average commitment rate across the country declined 48 percent from 1997 to 2011, Kansas experienced a reduction of 38 percent over the same time period. The state will receive technical assistance from The Pew Charitable Trusts throughout the Workgroup process and the 2016 legislative session.
Links to news:
Governor Brownback, Kansas Leaders Announce Formation of Juvenile Justice Workgroup
On June 21, Maryland held the first meeting of its Justice Reinvestment Coordinating Council. As established by law in Senate Bill 602 (Chapter 42), the inter-branch, bipartisan JRCC is charged with using a data-driven approach to develop a framework of sentencing and corrections policies. Governor Hogan, President Miller, Speaker Busch, Chief Justice Barbera, and Attorney General Frosh are looking to the Council to make recommendations that will safely reduce the state’s incarcerated population, control corrections spending, and reinvest in strategies to increase public safety and reduce recidivism.
Over the next seven months, the Council will analyze the drivers of the state’s prison population; examine reforms that are working in other states; consult research about what works to reduce recidivism; consult with criminal justice stakeholders; and develop a comprehensive package of reforms for consideration in the 2016 session.
The JRCC members have decades of criminal justice experience and a diversity of perspectives. Along with legislators, the Council consists of representatives from the judiciary, prosecutorial and defense bars, as well as law enforcement, local detention center administrators, and system practitioners. The Council is chaired by Christopher Shank, executive director of the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention. The group will also hear from representatives of victims and others impacted by the criminal justice system. Maryland’s state leaders requested technical assistance from the public safety performance project at The Pew Charitable Trusts. Pew will work directly with the Council to provide nonpartisan research and data analysis in support of this initiative.
Links to news:
Maryland justice panel eyes reduction in incarceration
How Republicans are experimenting with criminal justice reform
On Tuesday, July 7, Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo and state leaders from both parties launched a comprehensive study of the state’s criminal justice system to identify new ways to relieve pressures on the correctional system and increase public safety. Governor Raimondo also issued an executive order to establish a bipartisan, interbranch Justice Reinvestment Working Group, which calls on representatives from all three branches of government and stakeholders to study the state’s criminal justice system using the justice reinvestment approach. The Working Group will be co-chaired by Rhode Island Supreme Court Chief Justice Suttell and Judge Judith Savage.
In 2008, Rhode Island was facing a growing prison population and employed the Justice Reinvestment approach to design and enact House Bill 7204. Since its implementation, the state’s prison population has declined by 17 percent and re-conviction rates have also dropped. But current projections show this trend reversing over the next decade, growing about 12 percent by 2024. Rhode Island had the third-highest probation rate in the country in 2013, yet only a small portion (about 8 percent) of the Rhode Island Department of Corrections (RIDOC) budget—which constitutes nearly half of all state costs associated with public safety—goes to probation and parole services. At the end of 2014, approximately 20,000 people were on probation supervision in Rhode Island, which represents 1 in 45 adult residents. Further, almost half of Rhode Island’s sentenced admissions to the Adult Correctional Institutions in 2014 were people who have been revoked from probation or parole supervision. Since 2004, combined state funding for the Departments of Public Safety and Corrections, the Attorney General and Public Defender’s offices, and the courts systems increased from $312 million to $478 million in 2014, a spike of more than 50 percent. The state will receive technical assistance from the Council of State Governments Justice Center, with support from the Bureau of Justice Assistance and The Pew Charitable Trusts.
Links to news articles:
R.I. governor aims to reform criminal justice system, lower costs
Data, Research Drive Bipartisan Juvenile Reform in South Dakota: Legislation Will Cut Costs and Improve Outcomes by Expanding Community Options for Lower Level Offenders and Focusing Secure Facilities on High-Risk Youth.
Former NSA President, Sheriff Mike Leidholt (Hughes County, SD) discusses the juvenile justice reforms taking root in South Dakota that he believes represent a strong first step to intervening early and more effectively in the lives of delinquent juveniles to prevent them from spiraling toward a wasted future of perpetual crime. Click here
to read article.
Sheriffs and Victims Unite for Justice Reinvestment
Justice Reinvestment is designed to hold offenders accountable, control taxpayer costs, and keep communities safe – goals that sheriffs and victims heartily endorse. Sheriff Craig Webre (Lafourche Parish, LA), Chair of NSA’s Crime Victim Services Committee, and Anne Seymour, National Crime Victim Advocate, discuss how Justice Reinvestment begins with the gathering of data to identify problems in the criminal justice system and then engages all branches of government and outside stakeholders to develop practical, evidence-based policies that reduce corrections spending and direct savings into programs proven to improve public safety. Click here
to read article.
Effective Sentencing and Corrections Reform: Sheriffs Getting Involved
Sheriff Kevin Thom, Pennington County, discusses his experience in South Dakota that showed him there is an effective, proven process to help states reduce crime, hold offenders accountable and control prison costs – and that sheriffs must play a role in such efforts. Click here to read more.
Three States Begin Process of Reforming Their Sentencing and Corrections Systems:
This summer, Nebraska, Washington and Alabama launched the Justice Reinvestment Initiative with the assistance of the Bureau of Justice Assistance, The Pew Charitable Trusts, and the Council of State Governments Justice Center. Justice Reinvestment is a data-driven approach to improve public safety, reduce corrections and related criminal justice spending, and reinvest savings in strategies that can decrease crime and reduce recidivism. The CSG Justice Center will assist these states by reviewing their sentencing and corrections systems and developing policy recommendations to improve public safety, hold offenders accountable, and control corrections costs. To learn more, read here: http://csgjusticecenter.org/jr.
New Pew Report Reveals that More State Prisoners Are Being Released Without Supervision
In 2012, more than 1 in 5 state inmates maxed out their prison terms and were released to their communities without any supervision, undermining efforts to reduce reoffending rates and improve public safety. A new report by The Pew Charitable Trusts, Max Out: The Rise in Prison Inmates Released Without Supervision, found that despite growing evidence and a broad consensus that the period immediately following release from prison is critical for preventing recidivism, a large and increasing number of offenders are maxing out—serving their entire sentences behind bars—and returning to their communities without supervision or support. These inmates do not have any legal conditions imposed on them, are not monitored by parole or probation officers, and do not receive the assistance that can help them lead crime-free lives. Yet new research suggests that for many offenders, shorter prison terms followed by supervision have the potential to reduce both recidivism and overall corrections costs.
In the past few years, policymakers in at least eight states took steps to ensure that offenders are supervised after release from prison. Among the measures: mandating a period of post-prison supervision, carving that time out of the prison term rather than adding it at the end, improving parole decision-making, tailoring the intensity and duration of supervision to each offender’s public safety risk level, and strengthening community corrections through reinvestment in evidence-based practices. This new report by The Pew Charitable Trusts examines the rise in max-outs and its policy origins, looks at states that are leading on the use of post-prison supervision to protect public safety and reduce costs, and provides a framework to help other states use evidence to inform release and supervision decisions.
To learn more, please visit the Public Safety Performance Project of The Pew Charitable Trusts here
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.
National Justice Reinvestment Summit
On November 17-19, 2014, policy makers, experts, and other key decision makers from more than 30 states met to discuss the past, present, and future of the Justice Reinvestment Initiative (JRI). The event was co-hosted by The Pew Charitable Trusts, the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance, and the Council of State Governments’ Justice Center. In case you missed it: Watch the summit’s plenary sessions here. Learn why half of the states have used the data-driven justice reinvestment process and hear from Grover Norquist, Newt Gingrich, and Van Jones about building national momentum for these reforms.
Utah Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice Announces Policy Recommendations
On November 12, 2014, Utah’s Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice (CCJJ) announced a comprehensive set of data-driven recommendations for the state’s upcoming legislative session that will reduce recidivism, hold offenders accountable and save taxpayers an estimated $542 million by averting almost all of Utah's projected prison growth over the next two decades.
CCJJ's proposed recommendations would:
- Focus prison beds on serious and violent offenders
- Strengthen probation and parole supervision
- Improve and expand reentry and treatment services
- Support local corrections systems
- Ensure oversight and accountability
West Virginia Task Force on Juvenile Justice Releases Policy Recommendations
On December 11, 2014, the West Virginia Intergovernmental Juvenile Justice Task Force produced a set of policy recommendations that, if adopted, are projected to reduce the number of youth in state-funded residential juvenile justice facilities by at least 40% by 2020, averting otherwise anticipated costs of $59 million over the next five years that should be used for reinvestment in evidence-based accountability and treatment programs. These options would keep families intact while improving long term outcomes for youth and communities. The recommendations include: Providing early interventions and effective community supervision options; Improving youth and system accountability by increasing data collection and sharing, expanding options for holding youth accountable and addressing the issue of disproportionate minority contact, and; Focusing residential beds on higher risk youth while reinvesting savings into evidence-based community options.
South Dakota Releases Plans to Improve Juvenile Justice System
The South Dakota Juvenile Justice Reinvestment Initiative (JJRI) Working Group has submitted to state leaders a comprehensive set of data-driven policy recommendations for the current legislative session that will increase public safety, effectively hold juvenile offenders accountable, and reduce juvenile justice costs. The proposed recommendations would accomplish those goals by: Focusing expensive residential placements on youth who are a risk to public safety; Preventing deeper involvement in the juvenile justice system for youth committing lower level offenses; Improving outcomes by expanding access to evidence-based community interventions, and; Ensuring the quality and sustainability of reforms.
The sponsor of a bill that would make drug possession a misdemeanor in Utah describes it as “an epic shift” in the criminal justice system, which is not an overstatement given the magnitude of change it would bring. The proposal carries a lot of upside as a more humane and fiscally responsible way to deal with a problem that hasn’t gone away after a generation-long war on drugs. www.DeseretNews.com. March 2, 2015, Editorial
In Utah's Capitol, liberal ACLU leaders stood next to conservative state lawmakers cheering on a bill that would detour drug addicts from prison cells to treatment programs. It also would reduce criminal penalties for getting caught with an illicit substance. The Salt Lake City Tribune (www.sltrib.com, March 25, 2015)
West Virginia Governor Tomblin signed into law on April 2nd a set of policies designed to protect public safety; improve outcomes for youth, families, and communities; enhance accountability for juvenile offenders and state agencies; and contain taxpayer costs by prioritizing resources for the most serious offenders. The reforms are expected to reduce the number of youth in residential placements by at least 16 percent, saving the state at least $20 million over the next five years. The new law is based on policy recommendations from the bipartisan Intergovernmental Task Force on Juvenile Justice, which was established in June 2014 after passage of criminal justice reinvestment legislation the previous year. The 30-member task force conducted a comprehensive analysis of West Virginia’s juvenile court and correctional systems to determine how state resources were being used and whether taxpayers were getting a sufficient public safety return on their investments. To learn more, read here.
Growing research shows that locking up lower-level juvenile offenders fails to produce better outcomes than community-based supervision and programming. The high cost and often poor results of juvenile confinement have led states to expand to alternative approaches.
Pew Publications and Releases
This brief provides an evaluation of a Louisiana law that limits the time for which offenders can be revoked to prison for technical violations of supervision conditions. The brief provides fresh evidence that shorter prison terms for certain offenders can cut taxpayer costs while maintaining or even improving public safety.
This brief summarizes the public safety performance project’s technical assistance work in Oregon and analyzes the impact of the reforms one year after implementation.
Three judges explain why they championed juvenile justice reform efforts in their states.
In a nationwide poll conducted in 2014 by a bipartisan team of pollsters, the Mellman Group and Public Opinion Strategies, voters say what they expect from the juvenile justice system.
State leaders from Georgia, Hawaii, and Kentucky discuss the shifting landscape in juvenile justice and how they enacted data-driven and fiscally sound policies that protect public safety, improve outcomes for youths, and contain correctional costs.
The number of state prison inmates is expected to rise 3 percent by 2018, according to projections collected from 34 states by The Pew Charitable Trusts.
Thirty-two states reduced both their imprisonment and crime rates over the past five years, according to a Pew analysis of crime data released by the FBI on Monday, November 10.