Lemonade From Cuts to State Prison Spending

     (CN) – Seventeen states managed to reduce recidivism and improve public safety while cutting correction costs, a report from a federal and state partnership revealed Friday.
     The Justice Reinvestment Initiative announced these improvements in a report titled “Lessons from the States: Reducing Recidivism and Curbing Corrections Costs Through Justice Reinvestment.”
     It identifies the 17 successful states as Arkansas, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota and West Virginia.
     The Justice Reinvestment Initiative was created in the wake of runaway in state spending on corrections from $12 billion in 1988 to more than $52 billion in 2011, according to a statement from the Justice Department.
     It represents a cooperative effort with the Pew Center on the States, funded by the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Assistance.
     With this support, staff from Council of State Governments Justice Center “worked with lawmakers, policymakers, and a wide range of justice system professionals and stakeholders from each state to identify crime and corrections trends and formulate strategies that would save money and improve safety,” the Justice Department said.
     The initiative undertook “an across-the-board analysis of statewide crime and corrections data designed to help officials redirect public funds from costly prison building projects to cost-effective programs aimed at ensuring greater public safety.”
     These analyses helped states to enact legislation and implement justice reinvestment policies that incentivize use of risk-based decision making, increase services and support for victims, target grants to law enforcement, and establish state wide standards and training for probation agencies, according to the statement.
     States reached their goals with six steps, identified in the report as
     “1. Conduct a comprehensive analysis of crime, arrest, conviction, jail, prison, probation and parole data;
     “2. Engage diverse constituencies of elected and appointed leaders as well as criminal justice stakeholders;
     “3. Focus resources on individuals most likely to reoffend;
     “4. Reinvest taxpayer dollars in proven programs and strategies;
     “5. Strengthen community supervision by responding to violations swiftly, proportionately, and with approaches that are evidence-based;
     “6. And reward the performance of local agencies whose actions result in cost savings.”
     The Justice Department emphasized that this focus led President Barack Obama to earmark $85 million for the Justice Reinvestment Initiative in the budget request for fiscal year 2014, released Wednesday.

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