Leaders in Idaho recently held a kickoff event to launch their “Justice Reinvestment Initiative.” Justice reinvestment is a comprehensive, data-driven approach to developing and implementing policies to control corrections spending and reinvest a portion of the savings in strategies to reduce recidivism and increase public safety.
Over the past several years, the Council of State Governments Justice Center (CSG Justice Center) has helped states across the country—including West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Kansas—apply this approach. The initiative is made possible by a partnership with The Pew Charitable Trusts and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA).
On June 18th, Idaho Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter joined state leaders to launch an effort to avert prison growth and reduce recidivism using a justice reinvestment approach, with the goal of addressing these issues during the 2014 legislative session.
“Our corrections system is consuming an increasing share of our budget. We have a simple choice to make: continue down this path, or use data to find a smarter way to protect the public and be better stewards of tax dollars,” Governor Otter said. “The help provided through the Justice Reinvestment Initiative will enable us to take a comprehensive look at our criminal justice system and learn from innovations around the country that are reducing crime and costs.”
The number of people incarcerated in Idaho prisons increased 28 percent from 2004 to 2012, from 6,312 to 8,097 inmates. And while more than half of all states saw a decline in their prison populations between 2010 and 2011, Idaho’s prison population grew 4 percent—one of the largest increases in the nation. Contributing to this growth is the increasing number of people failing to meet the conditions of their supervision. In 2012, more than half (57 percent) of all prison admissions were the result of supervision violations.
To support this work, state leaders established a bipartisan, inter-branch Justice Reinvestment Working Group, which includes 28 representatives from the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government, as well as key criminal justice stakeholders. The Working Group will be co-chaired by Senator Patti Anne Lodge (R-Huston) and Representative Richard Wills (R-Glenns Ferry). Additionally, the Idaho legislature created a bipartisan Interim Legislative Committee composed of five policymakers from each chamber to study the state’s criminal justice system using the justice reinvestment approach. Both groups will review the findings and assist in developing options for the Idaho legislature’s consideration that are designed to both increase public safety and reduce corrections spending.
To learn more about the justice reinvestment strategy in Idaho, please click here.