The Tribune has advocated for some time for changes to reduce the number of inmates serving time in North Dakota. The Legislature has passed legislation this session that should help reach that goal.
Justice Reinvestment Media Clips
Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation officials estimate it costs more than $70 million per year to house the about 1,800 inmates in the state’s prison system, and that doesn’t even take into account the about 1,700 more in county jails.
The state’s top jurist said a package of corrections bills signed by the governor this week was more than fiscally savvy.
Gov. Doug Burgum, lawmakers, corrections officials and others on Friday hailed new legislation aimed at slowing prison growth by helping nonviolent offenders through treatment and sentencing alternatives, instead of warehousing them behind bars.
House Bill 1041, signed by Gov. Doug Burgum on Friday, reduces the drug possession charge level from a Class C felony to a Class A misdemeanor for first-time offenders and establishes probation as the presumptive sentence for low-level, nonviolent felonies. It also authorizes a pretrial services pilot project to free up limited and costly jail space and authorizes the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (DOCR) to award good time on credit for jail time which was previously prohibited.
A set of bills meant to reform the state corrections system has passed the Legislature.
Following the suicide of former New England Patriot player Aaron Hernandez, who was serving a life sentence for murder at the state’s maximum security prison in Shirley, Gov. Charlie Baker said he has faith in his Department of Correction commissioner.
Four bills are working their way through the conference committee process, which basically means different versions of the same bills passed in both chambers.
Though much of the discussion over a raft of criminal justice reforms headed for the Legislature this spring has focused on those sent to prison for nonviolent crimes—drug or property offenses like burglary—it’s a smaller group of inmates serving extremely long sentences that have an outsized impact on Louisiana’s prison population and, by extension, the state budget.
Gov. Burgum said the interim between legislative sessions will be critical in developing policy for behavioral health. “We need to look at this as a whole. We can’t continue budgeting in silos. We need to identify synergies and find savings in our day-to-day management.”