CSG Justice Center Congressional Staff Briefing on Justice Reinvestment

Summary. Below is a video of the Congressional Staff Briefing on Justice Reinvestment; Lessons Learned in the States on Reducing Recidivism & Curbing Corrections Costs. Recorded on 12 April 2013 at 2103 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, D.C.

Selected Quotes from the Video

“Justice Reinvestment is a bi-partisan data-driven criminal justice approach to assist states in reigning in the escalating costs of incarceration and reinvest cost savings in high performing programs that work to reduce recidivism and make our communities safer . . . We make sure those funds are invested in a way that is based on evidence-based programs and policies.” ~ Denise O’Donnell, Director, Bureau of Justice Assistance

“Incarceration cost is a ‘PacMan’ in state budgets eating into every other budget priority.” ~ Michael Thompson, Director, Council of State Governments Justice Center

“South Dakota is a conservative state. We have a fiscally conservative governor, and a very conservative legislature. Pew Charitable Trust came in and worked with us. It was the most non-partisan and bi-partisan I’ve ever seen.” ~ Jim D. Seward, General Counsel, Office of the Governor, State of South Dakota

“The governor said, ‘Jim, I want you to take a look at this – because of the budget, but most importantly because of humanity. If we’re locking up a bunch of non-violent folks that we shouldn’t lock up, we really should take a look at that, and we shouldn’t be afraid to take a look at ourselves.’ We took a look at the data, and the data showed that 81% of our prison new commitments to prison in 2012 were for non-violent felonies. So, [as a result of Justice Reinvestment] we expanded things like drug courts, and DUI courts, HOPE courts, and earned discharge on probation and parole so that early on, resources can be focused on the folks who are most likely to reoffend, and the people that don’t need to be supervised can go home and go to work and help the rest of us out. [as a result of Justice Reinvestment] South Dakota is expected to save up to $200 million over 10 years. We were going to be forced to build two new prisons in the next 8 years, but these initiatives will eliminate that need.” ~ Jim D. Seward, General Counsel, Office of the Governor, State of South Dakota

“In 2009, 56% of the new admissions to our prison system were from probation revocations, and of that number, 73% were for technical violations such as a positive drug screen or failing to report to the office, or some event like that. Not a new criminal charge, or criminal conviction, or absconding supervision. The amazing thing is that those [prison] beds cost us about $30,000 a year and we were incarcerating low-level felons in the prison system. [as a result of Justice Reinvestment] Today we’re spending time by utilizing evidenced-based practices where we sit knee-to-knee across from the offender and have a conversation. We’re asking him or her about what caused them to make that poor decision that they made in their life. We spend the quality time with them. The legislation limits the ratio to one officer for every 60 offenders. [as a result of Justice Reinvestment] ” ~ W. David Guice, Commissioner, Division of Adult Correction, North Carolina Department of Public Safety

“We were adding approximately 2,000 inmates a year, and that’s essentially one prison [per year]. The construction costs for us to build one prison is about $200 million, but the operational cost is another $60 million a year. … We were investing $110 million in 54 community corrections programs. In 2009, [we had the system evaluated and learned] for 53 of the 54 community corrections programs, offenders were more likely to offend upon leaving the program. Despite that we kept spending $110 million a year. … This is the approach we’ve all taken in corrections forever. [as a result of Justice Reinvestment, community corrections program providers are paid on outcomes] They will be paid based on their ability to improve people, because that’s what we’re paying them to do. If they reduce recidivism, they get a bonus. If they do not reduce recidivism, they don’t get a bonus. If they are increasing recidivism, we end their contract.” ~ John Wetzel, Secretary, Pennsylvania Department of Corrections

Video Description

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 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, however, show that there are effective ways to address the challenges of containing rising corrections costs while also increasing public safety.

A number of states have responded to these challenges with “justice reinvestment” strategies to reduce corrections costs and increase public safety. Justice Reinvestment is a data-driven approach that ensures that policymaking is based on a comprehensive analysis of criminal justice data and the latest research about what works to reduce crime, and is tailored to the distinct public safety needs of the jurisdiction. In the first phase, experts analyze a variety of state-specific data to develop practical, consensus-based policies that reduce spending on corrections and generate savings that can be reinvested in strategies to improve public safety. In the second phase, jurisdictions translate the new policies into practice and monitor data to ensure that related programs and system investments achieve their projected outcomes.

At this April 12, 2013 briefing, leaders from several of the states that have adopted justice reinvestment strategies discussed their experiences with the program and highlighted six key lessons learned since 2007, when the justice reinvestment program was launched.

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