Reducing Recidivism and Curbing Corrections Costs

April 29, 2013

The following post appears courtesy of Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Justice Programs Mary Lou Leary.

We are very pleased to announce the results of an important report from the Department of Justice and the Council of State Governments (CSG), highlighting 17 states that have successfully cut corrections costs while reducing recidivism and improving public safety. As you may know, over the past 20 years, state spending on corrections has shot up from $12 billion in 1988 to more than $52 billion in 2011. Declining state revenues and other fiscal factors are straining many states’ criminal justice systems, often putting concerns about the bottom line in competition with public safety.

This new report, Lessons from the States: Reducing Recidivism and Curbing Corrections Costs Through Justice Reinvestment, summarizes the experiences of states participating in the Justice Reinvestment Initiative (JRI) and shows that evidence-based strategies can improve public safety and reduce recidivism, even in an era of reduced resources.

The initiative analyzed statewide crime and corrections data, looking for ways to help officials redirect public funds from expensive prison building projects to more cost-effective programs aimed at ensuring greater public safety.  Based on these analyses, states have put in place legislation and policies which encourage 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.

In North Carolina and Ohio, for example, JRI analyses led to legislation that focuses resources on high-risk offenders and conserves prison space for the most serious criminals.  Kentucky enacted a law that requires 75 percent of state supervision and treatment expenditures to be evidence-based by 2016.  An analysis in Hawaii found deficiencies in the collection of restitution for crime victims and prompted the state to revise its restitution collection infrastructure.

Through the Justice Reinvestment Initiative, we’re helping state leaders become smarter and tougher on crime and employ data and research to wisely use scarce resources. This approach has shown that states don’t have to choose between safe communities and fiscal solvency.  Both are possible.

Read the report and find more information on the Justice Reinvestment Initiative here at www.justicereinvestment.org.