The NGA Center, in cooperation with Pew Center on the States, hosted a webcast on ways states can maintain—or improve—public safety with fewer resources through cross-governmental sentencing and corrections reform.
States are in the midst of an historic budget crisis. With corrections one of the fastest growing state expenditures, many are looking to reform their sentencing and corrections practices for additional cost savings. The challenge to states, however, is to make reforms and cut spending while at the same time ensuring public safety. One of the most effective ways states can achieve this goal is to adopt a cross-governmental approach to reforming state sentencing and corrections practices.
The webcast provided an overview and discussion of ways the executive, legislative, and judicial branches can work together to maximize offender outcomes and public safety with limited state resources. A panel of nationally recognized experts addressed issues such as:
- What challenges do each branch of state government face and what is the impact of state budget crises on the criminal justice system?
- What are evidence-based sentencing and corrections practices proven to control crime and reduce costs?
- How can cost-benefit analysis help state policymakers evaluate the impact of a policy or program?
- How can state policymakers educate the public and build their support for evidence-based corrections reform?
This webcast builds on the work of state teams at the Cross-Governmental Sentencing and Corrections Policy Forum hosted by the NGA Center on June 24-25, 2010 in Annapolis, Maryland. At the forum, nine state teams comprised of members from the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government convened to identify and evaluate strategies to improve state sentencing and corrections policies to reduce corrections costs and improve sentencing outcomes, while maintaining public safety.
- John Baldwin, director, Iowa Department of Corrections
- John Tilley, Kentucky State Representative
- The Honorable Aphrodite K. Konduros, South Carolina Court of Appeals
- Richard Jerome, project manager, Pew Center on the States, Public Safety Performance Project
Arming the Courts with Research: 10 Evidence-Based Sentencing Initiatives to Control Crime and Reduce Costs
This brief provides 10 strategies that would allow states to reduce their crime rates while conserving state resources to meet other important needs.
Implementing Evidence-Based Policy and Practice in Community Corrections
This paper by the Crime and Justice Institute at Community Resources for Justice outlines the theoretical and empirical support for the Integrated Model for the implementation of evidence-based practices as well as practical strategies for its implementation in community corrections settings.
National Research of Public Attitudes on Crime and Punishment
This 2010 report by Public Opinion Strategies explores public attitudes on crime and punishment and recommends ways policymakers can frame their message to build public support for criminal justice reforms.
Omnibus Crime Reduction and Sentencing Reform Act of 2010 (S. 1154)
The South Carolina General Assembly established the South Carolina Sentencing Reform Commission in 2008 to develop recommendations on how to rein in the state’s soaring prison population and corrections costs. The Commission developed a set of reforms that lead to passage of the Omnibus Crime Reduction and Sentencing Reform Act in 2010. The law is projected to substantially slow the growth of the state’s prison population over the next five years to save the state $175 million in prison construction costs and help it avoid more than $66 million in operating costs.
One in 31: The Long Reach of American Corrections
This report by the Pew Public Safety Performance Project provides a detailed look at who is in the corrections system and which states have the highest populations of offenders behind bars and in the community.
Public Safety and Offender Accountability Act (HB 463)
The Kentucky General Assembly created the Kentucky Task Force on the Penal Code and Controlled Substances Act to develop recommendations for reducing offender recidivism rates and avert new spending on prisons. The task force worked over more than six months to analyze the commonwealth’s criminal justice data and compare state policies with national best practices. As a result of the work of the task force, Kentucky passed the Public Safety and Offender Accountability Act in 2011. Reforms under the law are projected to save the state $422 million over ten years in corrections costs.
South Carolina’s Public Safety Reform: Legislation Enacts Research-based Strategies to Cut Prison Growth and Costs
This issue brief by the Pew Public Safety Performance Project highlights the work of the South Carolina Sentencing Reform Commission and examines the reforms it developed leading to the Omnibus Crime Reduction and Sentencing Reform Act of 2010.
State of Recidivism: The Revolving Door of America's Prisons
This report by the Pew Public Safety Performance Project provides a state-by-state look at recidivism rates and finds that more than 4 out of 10 adults return to prison within three years of release. Further, it finds that if states could reduce their recidivism rates by just 10 percent, they could save more than $635 million combined in one year alone in averted prison costs.
Texas Justice Reinvestment: Be More Like Texas?
This article by Tony Fabelo, published in Justice Research and Policy, Volume 12, No. 1, 2010, examines Texas' success in controlling its surging prison population. Rather than spend a half billion dollars to build and operate new prisons, the state invested $241 million in greater treatment capacity in prisons and the expansion of the state's probation and parole system. By expanding these programs, the state saved $443 million in prison construction costs and stabilized the growth of the Texas prison population.
Understanding the Risk Principle: How and Why Correctional Interventions Can Harm Low-Risk Offenders
This article published by the National Institute of Corrections discusses the concept of risk and how it pertains to offender recidivism and argues for the administration and delivery of more intense services and supervision to higher-risk offenders. In contrast, lower-risk offenders should receive lower levels of supervision and treatment.
Washington State Institute for Public Policy (WSIPP) Benefit-Cost Tool
WSIPP developed an analytical tool to help states identify evidence-based policies that reduce crime and lower corrections costs. The tool allows policymakers to examine various"portfolios" of programs and their impact on prison populations and costs. Based on projected outcomes, governors and state policymakers can make decisions about the types of programs the state will fund.