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Corrections reform

This issue brief provides an excellent look at issues surrounding correctional expenditures and cost-cutting reforms at the state level. Sections cover: an overview of the rise of state spending on corrections; the prison population and incarceration costs; state corrections spending trends; and criminal justice policy reforms. “Despite the demonstrated successes of criminal justice reforms, cost savings have yet to produce an overall decline in corrections spending. However, the policy reforms are improving the way states spend money for corrections, and the outcomes show better results for individuals and citizens. Over time, the cost savings from smart, criminal justice polices may lead to correctional spending declines, an outcome that would benefit all of state government” (p. 5).

State Spending for Corrections: Long-Term Trends and Recent Criminal Justice Policy Reforms Cover

This article describes a innovative partnership between local and state agencies that can be used by other states to reduce costs associated with justice-involved juveniles. “Beginning in 1994, Ohio implemented RECLAIM Ohio, a performance-based funding partnership between the state and local governments that expanded counties' use of effective, cost-efficient community-based options for lower-risk juvenile offenders. The program has helped cut recidivism rates and saved the state millions of dollars.” Sections of this brief cover: program background; reforms enacted—authorizing legislation, incentive funding, program support, standardized tools, focused expansion, and evidence-based programs; program impacts- commitments down, costs reduced by $11 to $45 depending on placement type, public safety improved, and lower recidivism rates.

State Local Partnership Cover

“The federal prison population has risen dramatically over the past few decades, as more people are sentenced to prison and for longer terms. The result? Dangerously overcrowded facilities and an increasing expense to taxpayers. In [this] new Urban Institute report, the authors project the population and cost savings impact of a variety of strategies designed to reduce the inmate population without compromising public safety. They find that the most effective approach is a combination of strategies, including early release for current prisoners and reducing the length of stay for future offenders, particularly those convicted of drug trafficking.” Sections of this publication following an executive summary include: introduction to the impact of federal prison growth; understanding the federal prison population and drivers of growth—the main drivers being who goes to prison and for how long; policy options to ease growth and reduce costs—front-end changes and back-end changes; and conclusion.

Stemming the Tide Cover

This report “highlights the continued positive trend in the nine states leading the nation on reducing incarceration, and showcases a handful of states that, while not keeping pace with the nationwide trend, have opened the door for future progress by adopting crucial incarceration-reducing policies that have been shown to improve conditions for youth and communities.” Sections of this publication include: nationwide trends in youth confinement; incarceration reduction in nine comeback states (CA, CT, IL, MS, NY, OH, TX, WA, WI)—adoption of incarceration reducing policies, census counts of incarcerated youth, number of youth per 100,000 in U.S. population, and average reduction in youth confinement; the coming-from-behind states (MI, NE, SD, WY)—highlights at a glance and incarceration reducing policies for each of the four states; and conclusion.

The Comeback and Coming-from-Behind States: An Update on Youth Incarceration in the United States Cover

"Over the past decade or more, virtually every state in the union has taken steps to create a juvenile justice system that is not just tough on crime but smart on crime—fair and just practices that protect communities and help all kids become responsible adults. The systems now taking shape embrace the best ideas from earlier waves of reform—society’s responsibility to its youth, the need to create safe communities—and put them in a new framework: a scientific understanding of child and adolescent development, the tools to evaluate what works and what doesn’t, and the determination to put our scarce taxpayer dollars where the evidence is" (p. 9). This report discusses how the fourth wave of reform will influence the juvenile justice system. Sections following an executive summary include: introduction; a brief history of juvenile justice—the "discovery" of childhood, enter the child savers, a second wave of reform, the third wave of backlash, the consequences, and the fourth wave; reducing incarceration and its harms; treating kids as kids, not as adults; diverting youths from the system; ensuring equal treatment and due process; balancing youth development, personal accountability, and public safety; and into the future.

The Fourth Wave: Juvenile Justice Reforms for the Twenty-First Century Cover

"Policymakers at all levels of government in the United States are increasingly turning toward alternatives to incarceration and pretrial detention. The aim is to decrease the cost of the criminal justice system, while reducing recidivism and improving outcomes for people accused of and convicted of criminal behavior. There is great promise in “justice reinvestment”: that society can save money and improve public safety by detaining and incarcerating fewer people and redirecting a portion of the savings to more effective supervised treatment, training, and other programming in the community. Fulfilling this promise, though, requires that those who make policy for, and allocate funding to, justice reform initiatives recognize the importance of making timely, accurate information available to the front-line practitioners—probation and parole officers, treatment providers and healthcare professionals, and the organizations providing services and programs to people under supervision. Without this flow of information, justice reform will likely fall far short of policymakers’ and citizens’ expectations, and may in the end neither reduce expenditures nor improve public safety" (p. 1). The following sections of this report explain how information sharing positively impacts justice reform by: making better decisions; ensuring accountability; providing efficient services; understanding an investing in what works; and by building on what exists. Each section also includes experiences from the field that support the information sharing initiatives.

The Importance of Information Sharing for Justice Reform cover

“This brief summarizes the efforts of states involved in the Justice Reinvestment Initiative (JRI), a program designed to identify and implement cost-efficient, evidence-based criminal justice reforms. To do so, jurisdictions use data analysis to identify criminal justice population and cost drivers and then develop policy options to reduce those drivers.” Correctional population and cost drivers include: parole and probation revocations; sentencing policies and practices; insufficient and ineffective community supervision and support; and parole system processing delays and denials. Strategies for reducing the costs related to these challenges include: risk and needs assessment; expansion or improvement of problem-solving courts; intermediate and graduated sanctions; increased use of evidence-based practices; expanded incentives, such as good time and earned credits; penalty changes; streamlines parole processes and expanded parole eligibility; expansion and increase in community-based treatment programs; mandatory supervision requirements; and accountability measures. The principle ways cost savings, resulting from improved justice systems, are reinvested are: reinvestment of tangible savings—funding based on the amount of costs that have been saved; up-front reinvestment--funding based on projected future savings; and reallocation—funding based on redirecting existing monies.

he Justice Reinvestment Initiative: Experiences from the States Cover

"Local governments across the U.S. are striving to improve public safety and optimize criminal justice investments … This policy brief considers the importance of collaboration with local justice partners in the formulation and implementation of state­ level justice reinvestment solutions. It highlights the need to share data to identify and implement cost­ saving solutions, partner to promote successful policy implementation, and invest locally." Sections cover: sharing data to identify and implement cost-saving solutions; Spotlight—Ohio; partnering with local stakeholders to promote successful policy implementation—sentencing, Spotlight—resource incentives for local placement in Pennsylvania, release mechanisms, community supervision, and California's public safety realignment and voter-led initiatives to reduce incarceration; investing locally; "thinking state" (partnering at the state level) in crafting local justice reinvestment solutions; and conclusion.

The Justice Reinvestment Initiative Cover

"After decades of unbridled growth in its prison population, the United States faces a defining moment. There is broad, bipartisan agreement that the costs of incarceration have far outweighed the benefits, and that our country has largely failed to meet the goals of a well-functioning justice system: to enhance public safety, to prevent future victimization, and to rehabilitate those who have engaged in criminal acts. Indeed, a growing body of evidence suggests that our over-reliance on incarceration may in fact undermine efforts to keep the public safe. Momentum is strong for a new direction, for a criminal justice system guided by proven, cost-effective strategies that reduce crime and restore lives. But translating this impulse for reform into lasting change is no small challenge. This report provides both an urgent call to action and a roadmap for reforming the federal prison system, which, with 197,000 people behind bars, was the largest in the nation as 2015 drew to a close. By adopting the recommendations detailed here, and committing sufficient resources to ensure their effectiveness, we can reduce the federal prison population by 60,000 people over the coming years and achieve savings of over $5 billion, allowing for reinvestment in programs proven to reduce crime. Most important, these proposed reforms and savings can be achieved through evidence-based policies that protect public safety. Such savings will not only bring fiscal responsibility to a policy area long plagued by the opposite tendency, but will also free critical funds the US Department of Justice (DOJ) needs for other priorities, such as national security, state and local law enforcement, and victim assistance. And just as critically, these reforms will make our communities safer by ensuring we send the right people to prison and that they return to society with the skills, supervision, and support they need to stay crime free" (p. ix). Sections comprising this report include: the transformation of the federal corrections system—who the U.S. Bureau of Prisons (BOP) is, federal sentencing reform in the 1980s, the abolition of parole and the increase in time served, policy changes driving BOP growth, consequences due to growth, and the new path; Recommendation 1—Reserve Prison for Those Convicted of the Most Serious Federal Crimes; Recommendation 2—Promote a Culture of Safety and Rehabilitation in Federal Facilities; Recommendation 3—Incentivize Participation in Risk-Reduction Programming; Recommendation 4—Ensure Successful Reintegration by Using Evidence-Based Practices in Supervision and Support; Recommendation 5—Enhance System Performance and Accountability through Better Coordination across Agencies and Increased Transparency; and Recommendation 6—Reinvest Savings to Support the Expansion of Necessary Programs, Supervision, and Treatment.

Transforming Prisons, Restoring Lives: Final Recommendations of the Charles Colson Task Force on Federal Corrections Cover

This publication presents graphics regarding: the number of incarcerated youth from 1975-2010; disparities in confinement by race from 1997 to 2010; of those youth incarcerated, only 25% of them are committed due to violent offenses; the decline of juvenile incarceration rates by state; and recommendations for continuing with de-incarceration of youth.

Youth Incarceration in the United States Infographic Cover


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