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Corrections reform

“Perhaps more than any other state, Connecticut has absorbed the growing body of knowledge about youth development, adolescent brain research and delinquency, adopted its lessons, and used the information to fundamentally re-invent its approach to juvenile justice. As a result, Connecticut’s system today is far and away more successful, more humane, and more cost-effective than it was 10 or 20 years ago. This report will describe, dissect, and draw lessons from Connecticut’s striking success in juvenile justice reform for other states and communities seeking similar progress” (p. 1). Sections of this report include: introduction—seizing the opportunity; seven major accomplishments made in Connecticut’s juvenile justice reform; timeline of change—transformation over two decades—a deeply flawed system (1992), growing attention but few solutions (2002), and a transformed system (2012); Connecticut’s array of evidence-based family interventions; keys to success—state of change, Connecticut’s chemistry for reform; and lessons learned—strategies that could help boost success in other jurisdictions.

Juvenile Justice Reform Cover

“Declining state revenues and other fiscal factors are putting a serious strain on many states’ criminal justice systems, often putting concerns about the bottom line in competition with public safety. Strategies tested in numerous states and local jurisdictions, however, show that there are effective ways to address the challenge of containing rising corrections costs while also increasing public safety” (p. 1). Any agency looking for ways to reduce costs while maintaining public safety should look at this report. These strategies are: conduct a comprehensive data analysis; engage diverse constituencies; focus on the people most likely to reoffend; reinvest in high-performing programs; strengthen community supervision; and incentivize performance.

Lessons from the States: Reducing Recidivism and Curbing Corrections Costs Through Justice Reinvestment Cover

This practice guide will stress that efforts to safely reduce the inappropriate detention of low-risk girls must be rooted in JDAI’s [Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative’s eight] core strategies, but with an added intentional focus on applying those core strategies to girls’ unique needs and circumstances. These efforts require a strong and collaborative leadership team with the will and capacity to undertake meaningful reforms in the treatment of girls at the detention stage. The work must be rooted in careful analysis of detention management reports and individual case files to pinpoint policies or practices that may result in girls’ inappropriate or unnecessary detention, and they must lead to action as local leaders design, test and continually revise new strategies to meet girls’ needs (p. 2-3). Four chapters comprise this publication: understanding the challenge—the importance of focusing on girls in detention; getting started; using data to reduce inappropriate detention of girls; and developing a Girls Detention Reform Work Plan. Appendixes provide: Barnes County quantitative data analysis, Barnes County case file review, Girls Detention Facility Self-Assessment, and Making Detention Reform Work for Girls Research Question Worksheet.

Making Detention Reform Work for Girls Cover

This is an excellent infographic showing how reductions in incarceration lead to decreases in crime. "Over the past five years, the majority of states have reduced their imprisonment rates while experiencing less crime. The relationship between incarceration and crime is complex, but states continue to show that it is possible to reduce both at the same time." A bar chart shows the change in imprisonment rate compared to the change in crime rate over the period of 2008 through 2013 for all 50 states. The bottom line--crime is less in those states that reduce their need on incarceration.

Most States Cut Imprisonment and Crime Cover

"Faced with a prison system at 159 percent of capacity and expected to grow to 170 percent of capacity by FY2020, state leaders in Nebraska pursued justice reinvestment. After extensive analyses identified key challenges in the state’s criminal justice system, policymakers developed a policy framework designed to reduce prison overcrowding and expand the use of probation and parole supervision. Justice reinvestment legislation was enacted in May 2015 and is projected to avert $306 million in construction and operations costs by FY2020." Sections of this brief include: overview; summary of the justice reinvestment process—challenge, findings, and solutions; summary of LB 605policies to use probation rather than incarceration for people convicted of low-level offenses, and increase penalty thresholds for property offenses, enhance felony classifications, ensure post-release supervision for most people upon release from prison, and address victims' needs, and improve parole supervision to reduce recidivism; looking ahead; sustainability policies in LB 605; and "Projected Impact of LB 605 on Nebraska's Prison Population" chart.

Nebraska’s Justice Reinvestment Approach: Reduce Prison Overcrowding and Expanding Probation and Parole Supervision cover

The need for a renewed effort in bringing the practice of juvenile justice back under the influence of the community is explained. Topics discussed include: history coming full circle—arrest, court, incarceration, the strong rationale for abandoning the status quo juvenile justice system, a systemic lack of cultural competence, and community-based justice that works; and Community-based Alternatives To Detention (ATDs) and Alternatives To Incarceration (ATIs)—restorative justice, and justice reinvestment. “’Nothing About Us Without Us!’ is an old adage of community organizing efforts, which provides a rallying cry for communities directly affected by an issue. Essentially, this adage asserts that lasting change can only occur when solutions to social problems are born from equal partnership and leadership from oppressed groups and impacted persons. Overwhelming evidence shows that the current juvenile justice system will not lead to safety, justice, cost-effectiveness, or positive life outcomes for anyone except possibly those corporations and officials who directly profit from it. Community-based approaches were utilized in the early years and can now be re-invigorated. They are more effective, socially responsible, affordable, culturally competent, and uphold human rights laws and norms” (p. 36).

Nothing About Us Without Us! The Failure of the Modern Juvenile Justice System and a Call for Community-Based Justice Cover

The Information Center is hosting our quarterly book club discussion on Thursday October  26 at 1 pm ET / 11 am MT

Please join us as we discuss the TED Talk - A Prosecutor's Vision for a Better Justice System - and explore Front-end Interventions in the criminal justice system.

A Prosecutor's Vision for a Better Justice System
When a kid commits a crime, the US justice system has a choice: prosecute to the full extent of the law, or take a step back and ask if saddling young people with criminal records is the right thing to do every time. In this searching talk, Adam Foss, a prosecutor with the Suffolk County District Attorney's Office in Boston, makes his case for a reformed justice system that replaces wrath with opportunity, changing people's lives for the better instead of ruining them. (15.57 minutes)


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Please convey any questions, concerns, or suggestions to Info. Spec. Elizabeth Zoby as listed below.


"Today, a criminal record serves as both a direct cause and consequence of poverty. It is a cause because having a criminal record can present obstacles to employment, housing, public assistance, education, family reunification, and more; convictions can result in monetary debts as well. It is a consequence due to the growing criminalization of poverty and homelessness. One recent study finds that our nation’s poverty rate would have dropped by 20 percent between 1980 and 2004 if not for mass incarceration and the subsequent criminal records that haunt people for years after they have paid their debt to society. Failure to address this link as part of a larger anti-poverty agenda risks missing a major piece of the puzzle. It is important to note that communities of color—and particularly men of color—are disproportionately affected, and high-poverty, disadvantaged communities generate a disproportionate share of Americans behind bars … Indeed, research shows that mass incarceration and its effects have been significant drivers of racial inequality in the United States, particularly during the past three to four decades. Moreover, the challenges associated with having a criminal record come at great cost to the U.S. economy. Estimates put the cost of employment losses among people with criminal records at as much as $65 billion per year in terms of gross domestic product. That’s in addition to our nation’s skyrocketing expenditures for mass incarceration, which today total more than $80 billion annually" (p. 1-2). This report explains how all levels of government (local, state, and federal), employers, and academic institutions can work to ensure that criminal records do not lead to structural racism and poverty. This report includes the following sections: introduction and summary; background; barriers to employment; barriers to housing; barriers to public assistance; barriers to education and training; barriers to economic security and financial empowerment; and conclusion.

One Strike and You're Out: How We can Eliminate Barriers to Economic Security and Mobility for People with Criminal Records Cover

“At the heart of the Models for Change story in Pennsylvania is the partnership between the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Committee (JJDPC), Pennsylvania's state advisory group (SAG). This monograph highlights some of the ways that Pennsylvania's SAG combined people, vision and dollars with those of Models for Change. It shows how the Foundation identified and collaborated with a key state agency to improve Pennsylvania's juvenile justice system. The JJDPC and Models for Change supported many separate lanes on the highway of reform, but some of those lanes merged to create a smoother, faster pathway to common goals.” This publication is composed of five chapters: introduction—setting the stage; Pennsylvania’s juvenile justice system; the partnership targets reform; reflections on the JJDP-MacArthur partnership; and conclusion—a partnership creates the future. Appendixes include: Mental Health/Juvenile Justice Joint Policy Statement; and a sample request for proposal (RFP)—aftercare pilot counties entitled “Development of Comprehensive Model Aftercare Approaches”.

Pennsylvania and McArthurs Cover

This publication offers a large range of strategies for individuals wanting to reform their juvenile justice system. “The various reform strategies may be conceptualized as relying on three distinct but interrelated mechanisms: resolution, reinvestment, and realignment (Butts and Evans 2011). Resolution refers to the use of managerial authority and administrative directives to influence system change; reinvestment entails the use of financial incentives to encourage system change; and realignment employs organizational and structural modifications to create new systems. This report describes the history and implementation of the most well-known reform initiatives that draw upon one or more of these mechanisms to achieve system change and it considers their impact on juvenile confinement at the state and local level” (p. 1). Sections of this report include: summary; introduction; resolution models in MA, UT, MO, and AR; reinvestment models in CA (subsidy), PA, WI, OH, CA (sliding scale), NC, Deschutes County (OR), IL, FL, and TX; realignment models in Wayne County (MI), CA, TX, and NY; and conclusion.

Pioneers of Youth Justice Reform: Achieving System Change Using Resolution, Reinvestment, and Realignment Strategies Cover


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