By Nicole Jones
The Vera Institute of Justice released a report on 14 states that passed significant sentencing and corrections reform in 2011 the can reduce recidivism.
The report noted three distinct themes from this year’s legislation:
- State policy makers are using data to understand how system elements like sentencing laws, parole revocations, and eligibility for “good time” affect their corrections populations, and they are relying on that data analysis to develop laws, policies, and practices that promote public safety in ways that are cost-effective.
- Policy makers are working together to generate savings and other benefits for stakeholders throughout the system.
- In a time of fiscal crisis, government leaders feel the need to do better with limited resources and are increasingly using reliable data in their decision making process.
Examples of states redirecting justice resources:
In 2003, Connecticut embraced the process of “justice reinvestment” by using data analysis to reduce prison populations and redirected money saved to strategies proven to decrease crime.
Vermont introduced justice reinvestment in 2008 after a near doubling of the state’s prison population between 1996 and 2006. As result of legislation, the population declined, allowing the state to reorganize state prisons and redirect money to enhance treatment and diversion programs, expand drug treatment programs and increase the availability of transitional housing and job training programs.
In 2011, Kentucky’s General Assembly passed the Public Safety and Offender Accountability Act. The legislation, which aimed to ensure prison space for violent and career criminals and to stop the revolving door for lower-risk, nonviolent offenders was based on policy recommendations of a bipartisan task force of lawyers, a retired judge and the state chief justice.