The Department of Justice and the Council of State Governments (CSG) highlight 17 states that have cut corrections costs while reducing recidivism and improving public safety. With funding from the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), staff from the CSG Justice Center – in partnership with the Pew Center on the States – 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.
Over the past 20 years, state spending on corrections has skyrocketed—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.
“Our nation pays a high price whenever our prisons and criminal justice systems fall short of delivering results that deter and punish crime, keep the American people safe, and ensure that those who pay their debts to society have the chance to become productive, law-abiding citizens,” said Attorney General Eric Holder. “These states have been able to achieve fundamental and positive reform because leaders from both sides of the aisle have come together to tackle these difficult issues. It is my hope that their success will be emulated by others across the country."
A 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, 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. Based on these analyses, the states have enacted legislation and implemented justice reinvestment policies which 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 report, states are able to reach these goals when they:
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.
“We support states that are committed to taking a data-driven approach to lowering re-offense rates of people released from prison and jail,” said Denise E. O’Donnell, BJA Director. “This report serves as a reference for states that are looking to tackle this issue. It shows that evidence-based strategies can improve public safety and reduce recidivism, even in an era of reduced resources.”
“Through our Justice Reinvestment effort, we’re helping state leaders use 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,” said Office of Justice Programs (OJP) Acting Assistant Attorney General Mary Lou Leary.
The 17 states involved in the Justice Reinvestment Initiative are Arkansas, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, and West Virginia.
Being smarter and tougher on crime through innovative prevention, intervention, enforcement and reentry programs is a Justice Department priority. That’s why President Obama’s budget request for fiscal year 2014, released Wednesday, includes $85 million for the Justice Reinvestment Initiative.
To read the report, Lessons from the States: Reducing Recidivism and Curbing Corrections Costs Through Justice Reinvestment, or for more information on the Justice Reinvestment Initiative, please visit: www.justicereinvestment.org
OJP provides federal leadership in developing the nation's capacity to prevent and control crime, administer justice and assist victims. OJP has six components: the Bureau of Justice Assistance; the Bureau of Justice Statistics; the National Institute of Justice; the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention; the Office for Victims of Crime; and the Office of Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering, and Tracking. More information about OJP can be found at http://www.ojp.gov.