In 2021, states across the country continued to grapple with challenges caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Despite these concerns, this year’s State of the State addresses show that governors are prioritizing criminal justice and behavioral health issues. Some of their top concerns include the following:
- Investing in law enforcement retention, recruitment, and training
- Expanding access to mental health and substance use care and treatment
- Addressing violent crime
A number of governors also noted efforts to help formerly incarcerated people get job training and employment as well as the need to increase housing to reduce homelessness.
Justice Issues Covered by Governors in Their State of the State Remarks (as of February 23, 2022)
|Law Enforcement||25 mentions|
Click on each state below to see excerpts pertaining to criminal justice from the governors’ 2022 State of the State speeches.
Kay Ivey (R)
Behavioral Health, Corrections
“I promised to address the issues facing our corrections system once and for all, and I have said that to make progress, we must first replace our costly and crumbling facilities.
I commend the men and women of the Legislature for joining me on that mission as we moved the Alabama Prison Program across the finish line this past fall. I am certain this critical step will make a significant difference for decades to come. . . .
In my commitment to expanding access to quality mental health care, I am proposing a $12 million investment for two additional mental health crisis centers, as well as other health services.”
Mike Dunleavy (R)
Domestic Violence, Violent Crime
“The good news for Alaska is that our overall crime rate has declined significantly in the past couple years; the bad news is that our rates of domestic violence and sexual assault remain stubbornly high.
As we announced last month, the People First initiative is the umbrella for five distinct initiatives addressing our most critical problems that impact our most vulnerable:
- Domestic violence and sexual assault;
- Human trafficking;
- Missing and murdered Indigenous persons;
- The foster care system; and
The People First Initiative is a mix of statutory changes, additional personnel, administrative orders, technology, and increased resources to tackle these longstanding, serious problems. . . .
I look forward to working with the Legislature and stakeholder groups to put this into action.”
Doug Ducey (R)
“We intend to keep Arizona a place where we honor and value our cops and all of law enforcement, including correctional officers and first responders. . . .
When it comes to building a budget, public safety will always be at the top of our list. And this year, we have a record surplus. So our budget proposes making our State Troopers in Arizona the highest paid law enforcement professionals in the state.”
Jared Polis (D)
Behavioral Health, Domestic Violence, Housing, Law Enforcement, Violent Crime
“I’m proud to put forward a responsible public safety plan that builds on historic legislation of
years past, gives much-needed support and funding to local law enforcement while also investing in community-based approaches and organizations that can help prevent violent crime from occurring in the first place. . . .
We are going to make our communities safer by focusing on training and recruiting efforts for police, supporting community policing models, increasing access to mental health services, offering early intervention grants, increasing support for domestic violence victims, and making safety improvements in our schools and on our streets. . . .
It’s also time that we put forward bigger and bolder solutions to reduce homelessness. We know what works; we just need more of it: affordable and transitional housing, substance use treatment and recovery care, related residential programs, and permanent housing with wrap-around support services, and recipients of funds need to be held accountable for actually reducing homelessness.”
Ned Lamont (D)
Behavioral Health, Law Enforcement, Reentry/Employment, Violent Crime
“Our budget calls on James Rovella, our commissioner of public safety to create a special illegal gun unit, working with our neighboring states, to track down those big gun traffickers.
You can’t be tough on crime if you are weak on guns!
And I want more cops on the beat. Our ten largest cities and towns alone are training and hiring nearly 400 new cops in the next two years. We’ve made sure they have the budget to do it.
As I have done with our state police, they are adding more female recruits and creating a more diverse police force. Community policing that is of, by, and for the communities they serve.
Those preventive measures only work if the Judicial Branch continues to speed up criminal cases so people who pose a risk to the community and themselves are kept off the streets. . . .
As important as responding to crime is preventing violence before it happens. That’s another reason we are investing hundreds of millions of dollars in education, workforce development, and mental health.”
John Carney (D)
“We also continue to tackle the epidemic of substance abuse statewide. Our Lieutenant Governor’s leadership of the Behavioral Health Consortium is having a real impact.
Despite the national rise in overdose rates during COVID, Delaware was one of only four states to see a decrease in the rate of overdose deaths. The Lieutenant Governor will continue to be a driving force to ensure access to treatment and prevention.”
Ron DeSantis (R)
“We have stood by the men and women of law enforcement. Not only do we reject defunding law enforcement—we enacted $1,000 bonuses for all police, fire and EMTs in Florida. I’m asking the Legislature to re-up these bonuses for another year. They deserve it.”
Brian Kemp (R)
Public Safety, Violent Crime
“With many urban—and some rural—counties facing alarming levels of violent crime, we have the responsibility to act. To provide additional assistance for GBI’s [Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s] efforts to dismantle criminal street gangs, my budget proposal will include funding for a new anti-gang unit in the Attorney General’s office . . .
To streamline case backlogs due to the COVID-19 pandemic and ensure prosecutors can obtain evidence as quickly as possible, my proposals will recommend over 7 million dollars to upgrade GBI crime lab equipment, begin improvements to GBI headquarters, and provide an additional 32 staff in the crime lab and medical examiner’s office to address their increased volume.”
David Ige (D)
Behavioral Health, Corrections
“Covid outbreaks at Oʻahu Community Correctional Center made it clear that we also need to strengthen the medical facilities in our prisons to protect the health of our inmates, staff and the general public.
Our plans to relocate OCCC to Halawa will create a modern facility better suited to support the behavioral, mental health and medical needs of its population.”
Brad Little (R)
“Protecting Idahoans of all ages from the afflictions of mental illness and addiction led to the creation of the three-branch Behavioral Health Council in 2020. It was a step that is now helping Idaho families access the services they need when they need it most.
Behavioral health issues affect Idaho’s corrections system, judicial system, hospitals, local communities, and schools. . . .
[T]here is a strong connection between safe communities and access to behavioral health resources for Idahoans of all ages.
Today, I am proposing we accelerate the implementation of the Behavioral Health
Council’s recommendations by investing $50 million to improve behavioral healthcare across Idaho. It is one step of many we will take to help prevent tragedy, improve lives, and make our communities safer.”
J.B. Pritzker (D)
Public Safety, Violent Crime
“To prevent violent crime and reduce the direct burden on police, Illinois is awarding grants to organizations that implement data-driven, community-driven violence prevention efforts. This budget proposal advances our $250 million multi-year investment in crime prevention in the Reimagine Public Safety Act. From the time I became Governor until this current fiscal year, we more than doubled the funding for violence interruption, diversion, and youth employment programs to $517 million. I’m proposing we increase that appropriation to $832 million. And as an additional relief for police departments, this budget provides greater funding for police body cameras.
Smart investments in front line personnel, in protecting witnesses, in community renewal, in mental health, in economic opportunities, and in solving crimes are the best ways to reduce violence on our streets.”
Eric Holcomb (R)
Law Enforcement, Reentry/Employment
“[T]o further help communities prosper, we’ll continue to partner on public safety efforts and deliver the good government service Hoosiers have come to expect.
That includes supporting and appropriately funding our law enforcement officers by investing $70 million in our state law enforcement academy and continuing to implement best practices. . . .
[O]ur Workforce Ready and Employer Training Grant programs continue to move more Hoosiers into higher-paying jobs and increase the number of people achieving a post-secondary education.
Since 2017, more than 52,000 Hoosiers have enrolled in our Workforce Ready program, and those who earned a credit saw an average wage gain of $6,800 a year.
And through our Employer Training Grant program, 3,700 employers have trained more than 41,000 Hoosiers, and they achieved an average pay raise of over $4,000 a year.”
Kim Reynolds (R)
“Whether it’s patrolling our streets or guarding our prisons, public safety jobs are difficult and absolutely vital.
I want to thank the legislature for giving additional funds to the Department of Corrections to help keep our prisons secure. And I want to recognize the importance of the Back the Blue Bill you passed last year. . . .
[W]e’re using federal ARPA funds to give our brave men and women in law enforcement and corrections a $1,000 retention bonus, while also aggressively recruiting officers in other states.”
Laura Kelly (D)
Behavioral Health, Juvenile Justice, Law Enforcement
“My budget contains historic levels of funding for law enforcement. Funding that will provide better equipment, better training facilities, and greater public safety. . . .
We’re also increasing funding for evidence-based juvenile delinquency programs, so we can reach these kids before it’s too late and keep them out of the system. . . .
[T]his pandemic has exacerbated mental health challenges for so many Kansans. That’s why I’ve included additional funding in my budget, to make it easier for local communities to provide critical mental health services closer to home, and reduce the strain on our law enforcement agencies, our jails and our hospital emergency rooms.”
Andy Beshear (D)
“So let’s spend this legislative session focused on bettering the lives of our people. . . . Let’s focus on bringing healing and recovery to those struggling with opioid and other addiction issues.”
Larry Hogan (R)
Law Enforcement, Violent Crime
“Tonight, on behalf of all the people who are sick and tired of all of the senseless violence, I’m calling on the leaders in both parties, in both houses, to immediately pass and send to my desk the Violent Firearms Offender Act to increase penalties for those who use guns to commit violent crimes, and the Judicial Transparency Act, because the public has a right to know about the sentences judges are giving or not giving to the most violent offenders. . . .
The reality is that our police are underfunded and under attack, which is why we launched a half a billion dollar Re-Fund The Police Initiative to help recruit and retain more quality officers, to increase diversity and expand community policing efforts, to improve training to teach better de-escalation techniques, and to provide body cams and other technology and equipment upgrades for state and local police departments all across Maryland.”
Charlie Baker (R)
Domestic Violence, Violent Crime
“As we enter the new year, there are many important opportunities to build on the collaborative work we’ve done over the past seven.
Two of those opportunities are closing loopholes that threaten public safety.
The first loophole allows those charged with violent crimes, who may also have lengthy criminal records, to walk free before trial.
And the second leaves residents, many of them women, with little recourse when an ex-partner attempts to violate them and destroy their lives.
We’ve filed bills to deal with these issues three times, to no avail. The time to do something about this is long past.”
Gretchen Whitmer (D)
Behavioral Health, Housing, Law Enforcement, Reentry/Employment
“For our Michigan State Police, who protect and serve with the utmost professionalism, we built new posts in Walker and West Branch. For law enforcement, we funded better training, delivered hazard pay, and expanded resources for local police departments. As a former prosecutor, public safety is a core issue for me. We will keep making investments to reduce crime and protect families.
And our criminal justice reforms have helped hundreds of thousands of Michiganders who served their time secure jobs and housing with a clean slate. . . .
We should invest in our mental health workforce so we can expand access. Nearly 40% of Michiganders do not get treatment for their mental illness. We will address this shortfall by expanding Michigan’s Loan Repayment Program for mental health professionals. And we will make a historic investment to retain and recruit hundreds more mental health workers.”
Tate Reeves (R)
“Today, in state prisons, we are working hard to offer training and meaningful work. That can not only fill the days, it can set an offender up for a peaceful life on the outside.
Just last month, Commissioner Cain unveiled a mobile welding training center that will help train inmates for a career in welding, post-release. The mobile welding training center—which by the way was not paid for with taxpayer funds—can train 32 inmates at a time and will rotate between prisons every 90 days. At the end of the program, trainees who complete it will receive a certification that they can use to find a job.
But that’s not the only program we’re leveraging to train inmates. For example, the Automotive Service Excellence Certification, where inmates can learn to work on car motors and small engines. Or the National Center for Construction Education and Research Certification, which prepares enrollees in a variety of skills that will help translate to jobs in the construction industry. These programs work, and we need more of them.
Here’s why. In 2020, the general recidivism rate in Mississippi was 37.4 percent. According to the Department of Corrections, initial data shows that under Commissioner Cain’s leadership, the recidivism rate for those who have completed re-entry and vocational training is less than half that. . . .
If we want to break the cycle of recidivism, we must invest in a cycle of education and learning. That’s why in my most recent Executive Budget Recommendation, I proposed allocating $2 million for re-entry programs geared toward Mississippians who will be eligible for parole within six months. Additionally, I’ve proposed funding to expand the work release pilot program—that has already shown so much promise—to each of Mississippi’s 82 counties.”
Mike Parson (R)
Behavioral Health, Law Enforcement, Violent Crime
“This year, we must take a renewed look at public safety and how best to fight violent crime.
We must continue to support our law enforcement professionals who put their lives on the line to protect our families. We can do this by ensuring consistent requirements and appropriate penalties to hold violent criminals accountable . . .
That said, it’s not just how we deal with violent criminals, we must make sure those with behavioral health and substance use disorders receive the treatment and support they need.
Last year, with the support of the General Assembly, we made great progress in providing proper treatment options to Missourians by increasing community support through crisis stabilization centers and community behavioral health liaisons.
This year, we are asking to provide an additional $140 million to support and increase services at health centers across the state.
Last year, we also highlighted the first law enforcement training academy in the country at a historically Black college at Lincoln University. AND this year, we are building on that investment with over $11 million dollars for upgrades and to provide more scholarships for law enforcement officers to receive POST certification and put more officers on the streets.”
Pete Ricketts (R)
Corrections, Law Enforcement
“Historic agreements were struck to provide substantial pay increases for our 24/7 public health and safety positions. This will help us attract and retain quality corrections teammates. We’ve already seen a fivefold increase in Department of Corrections applicants since this announcement was made.
I am also requesting $16.9 million to enhance our state crime lab, which analyzes forensic and physical criminal evidence to better secure justice for victims of crime.
And $47.7 million to go toward the expansion of our Law Enforcement Training Center in Grand Island.
Finally, we must fully fund the replacement of the Nebraska State Penitentiary. The existing penitentiary was built over one hundred and fifty years ago. Its walls are crumbling, and its infrastructure is aged beyond simple repair.
For those wishing to pursue criminal justice reform, this should be a no-brainer. A modern facility will give our inmates a better quality of life. Modernizing our State Penitentiary will allow us to offer enhanced services and programming to prepare these men for life after time served.”
Chris Sununu (R)
Behavioral Health, Law Enforcement, Substance Use
“As we came through last year’s Covid Emergency Order I immediately issued an Executive Order calling for direct action to ensure individuals in mental health crisis receive timely and appropriate medical care. . . .
Last month, we doubled down on our Emergency On-Demand access to mental health. When you’re in crisis, you don’t have time to wait. There is now mobile crisis support and a 24/7 crisis call center. . . .
Just a few years ago, alongside the mental health crisis, New Hampshire was seeing drug-related deaths continue to skyrocket—from 2013–2017 our drug related deaths doubled.
When I became Governor, we said Enough is Enough and instead of just pumping more money into a failing system with little accountability we took the challenge head on and built a new system of care. . . .
A system that didn’t just focus on 28 days of treatment, but one that actually integrated all of the wraparound services critical for long-term success of the individual. . . .
Back in 2020 New Hampshire aggressively took on the challenge of tackling issues surrounding law enforcement accountability, correctional reforms for modernizing our detention systems. We ensured that law enforcement worked in conjunction with community leaders to develop our Commission on Law Enforcement Accountability (we call it LEACT). NH law enforcement remains the gold standard across the country, and it is because of their collaborative work with the LEACT Commission that we are able to move forward on so many of these crucial and successful initiatives.”
Phil Murphy (D)
Law Enforcement, Substance Use
“[W]e’ve started down the long path of true criminal justice reform that will ultimately lead us to safer communities and stronger bonds of trust and goodwill between law enforcement and the residents they serve.
We took on a focused and data-driven effort to combat the ongoing opioid use-epidemic, even as we fought the coronavirus pandemic.
In that, we replaced stigma with compassion to close gaps in treatment, to expand access and use of life-saving medicines like Naloxone, and to support and expand the work of harm reduction centers, among so much more.”
Michelle Lujan Grisham (D)
Law Enforcement, Substance Use, Violent Crime
“[W]e are going to pass a law, this session, that will keep violent criminals behind bars until justice can be done. We will put a wedge in the revolving door of violent crime in New Mexico. The safety of our communities cannot be up for debate. A smart-on-crime approach can work; it has worked. In my first year in office, violent crime went down for the first time in 6 years: We can regain that momentum when we make sure our local communities (and public safety officers) have the resources and support they need.
So I am asking the Legislature for a 19% increase in the budget of the department of public safety to fund innovative new crime fighting strategies and hundreds of new positions, including a 19% raise for our state police officers. And I am asking for 100 million to support hiring and retention efforts to get a thousand more officers in place statewide as quickly as we can. . . .
And with investments like those I have proposed in my executive budget, we will put tens of millions of dollars into new behavioral health services, expanding access to treatment for substance abuse . . .”
Kathy Hochul (D)
“We will create teams of mental health professionals and social workers, who will partner with New York City outreach workers, to reach homeless individuals and move them into shelters and housing. . . .
We need to focus on addressing the root causes of homelessness: unmet mental health needs, poverty, addiction, and housing insecurity. . . .
That is why I am launching a new, five-year housing plan to create and preserve 100,000 affordable homes, including 10,000 units with supportive services for high-risk populations, like runaway youth and formerly incarcerated individuals. . . .
[W]e know that incarcerated people who participate in correctional education programs are far less likely to reoffend and 13 times more likely to obtain employment after returning home. . . .
So today I’m announcing a new ‘Jails-to-Jobs,’ initiative, so incarcerated people with have the support they need to find employment during re-entry. We’re also going to restore the Tuition Assistance Program for incarcerated people—ending a 30-year ban.”
Doug Burgum (R)
Behavioral Health, Substance Use
“Behavioral health must continue to be a top priority. We’ve got to keep expanding critical behavioral health services. We’ve got to be reaching those in need sooner, and we’ve got to reach them closer to home. And we’ve got to support telehealth as part of this solution, including telehealth from providers that may not have a physical location in our state. . . .
We’ve increased funding to improve access for addiction programs. We’ve expanded behavioral health crisis services to all regions of the state. And we’ve launched new recovery programs that include supportive housing. But there’s more to be done, and we’ll continue to meet these challenges through collaboration, innovation, and action.”
Kevin Stitt (R)
“Now is the time to transform and modernize our state law enforcement system into the nation’s best.
To do this, we need to tackle four critical areas: the recruitment, retention, health and training of our troopers, agents and investigators.
First, we must protect our officers.
Mental health does not discriminate. Depression and suicide do not discriminate. It’s long overdue, but this year we must prioritize the health of our officers and create the Oklahoma First Responders Wellness Division. Its foundation is a peer to peer system designed to recognize the early signs of trauma and give immediate help to officers who need it. . . .
In the same way we can attract and support teachers, we need to provide law enforcement officers competitive pay, the best training available, and more career options.
I’m requesting that we pool our resources and build a joint statewide training facility.”
Kate Brown (D)
Behavioral Health, Housing
“[W]e must address the intersection of housing and health needs. Expanding access to behavioral health services and substance use disorder prevention, treatment, and recovery is critical. I will continue to partner with the Legislature to finalize significant investments in behavioral health this year.”
Tom Wolf (D)
Behavioral Health, Substance Use
“Our budget surplus is not an excuse for a spending spree—but it is a chance to make more investments that can open the doors to opportunity for more Pennsylvania families. . . .
More investments in health care so we can fight the opioid epidemic and improve mental health.”
Henry McMaster (R)
“To keep South Carolinians safe, we must maintain a robust law enforcement presence—and properly ‘fund the police.’
Our state law enforcement agencies continue to lose valuable and experienced personnel because they are unable to remain competitive with pay and benefits. My Executive Budget dedicates $31 million in new dollars to law enforcement, public safety, and first response agencies for recruitment and retention pay raises.
We must also keep our law enforcement officers safe while they are on-the-job. My Executive Budget proposes providing $21 million for grants to local law enforcement agencies for additional body cameras and bulletproof vests.”
Kristi Noem (R)
Behavioral Health, Reentry/Employment, Substance Use
“Another problem we need to address is addiction and mental illness, and we are doing that through our targeted treatment and prevention initiatives. While overdoses have been skyrocketing across the country, in South Dakota, overdose deaths dropped by 19 percent.
There’s more work to do. In 2022, we will launch a statewide behavioral health campaign, continue to focus on fighting meth, and raise awareness about available resources. These efforts are saving lives. . . .
As for mental health, my budget creates regional behavioral crisis centers. These centers will help us get people appropriate care more quickly and close to home. This will help relieve the pressure on law enforcement and emergency rooms. . . .
We have partnered with Dakota State University to create a Future Workforce Finder tool. We are expanding the Upskill program to the South Dakota Women’s Prison and other career fields to get workers trained for in-demand jobs. We are partnering with adult education providers across the state to offer more options for adults to achieve their GED, to help them in their career.”
Bill Lee (R)
Law Enforcement, Reentry
“We will also commit more than $150 million directly into law enforcement agencies to create safer neighborhoods through the violent crime intervention grant fund.
We are proposing more than $350 million that will support a new law enforcement training academy to ensure we have the most professional force in the country. . . .
In the last three years, we have expanded educational pathways. We have ensured every inmate has a photo ID. We have increased job opportunities for inmates.”
Phil Scott (R)
Behavioral Health, Law Enforcement, Substance Use
“As we modernize law enforcement policy, we cannot forget that police and other first responders are essential to public safety. And this is another area where we have a significant labor shortage.
The work we are doing to continuously improve fair and impartial policing is necessary and important. And much of it is being led by our state and local officers themselves. We have also taken meaningful steps like universal body cameras, new training and a statewide Use of Force policy. . . .
Our mental health system is facing serious stress and it is not uncommon for emergency departments to have many people in mental health crisis, as they await treatment. Which is why we will continue to increase the number of mental health beds throughout the state.
And I’ll ask you to expand our mobile crisis pilot and suicide prevention model to make sure when our friends and family, neighbors and co-workers need us most, we have the tools to help.
And while we did our best to support those struggling with addiction during the pandemic, the data is clear: It was not enough. So, my budget will expand prevention, treatment and recovery efforts.
Supporting those dealing with substance misuse and addiction has been a priority and a commitment we have all shared for nearly a decade. No matter what other challenges come our way, we cannot weaken our efforts to reduce the number of Vermonters struggling with drugs and alcohol, the number of families it touches, and the lives it claims.”
Glenn Youngkin (R)
“My pledge is that we will restore safety by fully funding law enforcement.
Starting today, we will comprehensively fund higher salaries, better training, investments in equipment. And we will protect qualified immunity for law enforcement.
And we will invest in community policing programs to build trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve and protect.”
Jay Inslee (D)
Behavioral Health, Housing, Juvenile Justice
“My budget offers $80 million to pay providers more for housing and support foster youth with complex needs; and help young people transition out of foster care or juvenile justice. . . .
We will house those impacted by homelessness and behavioral health conditions and provide more affordable housing options for everyone.”
Jim Justice (R)
Reentry/Employment, Substance Use
“We are going to keep supporting our life-changing Jobs & Hope program that continues to rescue West Virginians from the pits of addiction and allows them to re-enter society with a renewed purpose and outlook.”
Mark Gordon (R)
“I am particularly grateful for our work with the Business Councils of both tribes [Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone] in raising the issue of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons and improving enforcement procedures and victim services.”
Photo credit: Henryk Sadura via Shutterstock
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