Groundbreaking 50-State Report on Public Safety Updated with 2017 Data

October 15, 2018

The CSG Justice Center has released an updated version of the 50-State Report on Public Safety that includes 2017 crime and arrest data. The report is a web-based resource that combines extensive data analyses, case studies and recommended strategies from all 50 states to help policymakers address their state’s specific public safety challenges.

The 50-State Report on Public Safety features more than 300 data visualizations comparing crime, recidivism and state correctional practices across all 50 states. The report couples these data with the latest research on strategies that work to improve public safety and more than 100 examples of public safety innovations drawn from every state in the country. With three core goals, 12 strategies and 37 action items, the report provides a playbook that policymakers can customize to tackle the issues most relevant to their communities.

“State officials want to keep people safe and healthy, but each state struggles with its own particular combination of challenges with respect to crime, addiction, and mental illness. Data and research are essential to successfully addressing the unique conditions in each state,” said Megan Quattlebaum, Director of the CSG Justice Center. “The 50-State Report on Public Safety is an unparalleled resource that we hope will inform stakeholder conversations about improving public safety and guide action by policymakers across the country.”

Data presented in the report combines publicly available information from dozens of sources with information gleaned from interviews with corrections staff in all 50 states to offer new insights on the latest criminal justice trends.

“There is no shortage of information to examine and consider when it comes to public safety. As the head of a state corrections agency, digesting all of the available data can be overwhelming,” said Bryan Collier, Executive Director of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. “The 50-State Report on Public Safety organizes a wealth of criminal justice information in one place, creating an important resource that is without equal in its size and scope.”

Highlights of the report’s findings include:

  • Between 2007 and 2017, violent crime rates decreased overall in 31 states. However, violent crime rates increased in rural areas in 16 of those states.
  • The number of drug overdose deaths is almost four times higher than the number of homicides, compared to 20 years ago when they were nearly the same.
  • In 2015, states spent nearly 10 times as much taxpayer money on prison costs than they did on community supervision, despite the fact that there were 1.5 million people in state prison compared to 4.5 million people on probation and parole.
  • Nearly all states track and publish recidivism for people leaving prison, but 32 states use a narrow definition that only includes reincarceration, not rearrests and reconvictions. Only 11 states collect and publish any measure of recidivism for the millions of people starting probation supervision each year.
  • All but 8 states saw an increase in correctional populations in the last decade, and 24 states are projecting growth in their prison populations.
  • In 2014, at least 40 percent of people in prison had been convicted of property or drug offenses in 16 states.

“States are facing a wide range of public safety challenges from increasing crime rates in some communities and a surge in drug-related deaths to high recidivism rates and rising correctional costs,” said Alabama State Sen. Cam Ward. “This report gives policymakers a blueprint for achieving results, and the strategies offered here will be useful for years to come.”

The report builds on work started last year at the 50-State Summit on Public Safety, hosted by the CSG Justice Center in partnership with the Association of State Correctional Administrators. The summit brought together critical voices in criminal justice policy from all 50 states, including state legislators, corrections leaders, law enforcement officials and behavioral health professionals, to discuss the complex landscape of crime, arrests and correctional-system trends across the country.

“The Council of State Governments Justice Center continues to provide criminal justice stakeholders with new analysis and insight,” said Commissioner Marie Williams of the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. “The 50-State Report on Public Safety highlights the intersection of the behavioral health and public safety systems and illustrates why states need a comprehensive strategy to address the needs of people in the criminal justice system who struggle with mental illness and substance addiction.”

To meaningfully advance local public safety efforts, participants at the summit recognized the need for easy-to-interpret data, along with concrete strategies supported by research and examples, to better understand and address trends in crime, recidivism, mental health, substance addictions and prison and jail spending. As a continuation of the summit, the CSG Justice Center is currently working with more than 15 states to facilitate statewide forums on public safety with a broad coalition of stakeholders.

“Without a clear understanding of why and where crime is occurring, law enforcement cannot develop effective strategies to improve public safety in our communities,” said Anthony Campbell, the chief of police in New Haven, Conn. “The 50-State Report on Public Safety illustrates why data is such an instrumental tool in combatting crime.”

Funding for the 50-State Report on Public Safety was provided by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance.

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