During Second Chance Month, we draw attention to the challenges that former inmates face and the steps we can take to ensure they have the opportunity to become contributing members of society.
Colorado has made remarkable improvements to its juvenile justice system resulting in safer communities and fewer youth unnecessarily incarcerated. Due to bipartisan policy solutions, juvenile arrests declined 18 percent and filings to juvenile district court decreased 9 percent between 2012 and 2016; new commitments to the Division of Youth Services have decreased 22 percent since 2013.
Pointing to the punitive nature of parole and supervision in Philadelphia and across the state, District Attorney Larry Krasner has announced his office’s new policy of working with judges to reduce parole and supervision in both felonies and misdemeanors.
Here’s a record Nebraska leaders didn’t want to set: a new high for prison overcrowding.
The Wyoming Legislature passed a slate of bills aimed at tackling criminal justice reinvestment in Wyoming. Based on recommendations from the Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center, formed after a nearly year-long study, the bills offer science-based solutions to the pressures on the state’s prison system.
Since joining Stepping Up in 2016, Dakota County has made multiple key changes, said Angela Lockhart, the county’s integrated service delivery coordinator. About 15 other Minnesota counties are also part of the program, including Ramsey, Carver, Scott, and Hennepin.
On Monday, Cleveland County became one of a handful of Oklahoma counties to pass a Stepping Up resolution to commit to reducing the number of people with mental illness in jail. According to the Stepping Up website, Cleveland County may be only the third in the state to adopt this resolution, with the other two being Grant and Tulsa counties.
Former Ohio Supreme Court Justice Evelyn Stratton is the project director for the Ohio Stepping Up initiative. Instead of addressing mental illness in jails on a county-by-county basis, Stratton said, Ohio is tackling the problem on a statewide basis. Including Champaign County, there are currently 45 counties in Ohio participating in the initiative.
From 2004 to 2014, the rate in Louisiana of people who returned to prison within three years of their release decreased by 12 percent, according to a national justice organization’s November report on prisoners affected by Second Chance Act programs. The report shows that almost 39 of every 100 such former inmates in Louisiana returned to prison within a three year window in 2004, but in 2014, 34 per 100 did.
Like law enforcement agencies everywhere, the St. Paul Police Department gets a lot of calls for mental health crises, which take a lot of officers’ time and cost a lot of money. So far this year, Ramsey County dispatchers have handled almost 6,000 calls involving mental health. That’s about 2 percent of incoming 911 calls.
Since joining Stepping Up, both Douglas and Champaign counties in Kansas have implemented mental health screenings in jail to get beyond guesswork and make more informed decisions about the strategies needed to have a measurable impact on the number of people with mental illnesses in their jails. Both counties were also named Stepping Up Innovator Counties for their recent efforts to accurately identify people with serious mental illnesses and collect related data.
State directors and staff in the fields of public safety, mental health, social services, and corrections are rolling out implementations of the state Justice Reinvestment Initiative. It aims to turn around Missouri’s rising incarceration rates by investing in treatment and other services rather than in prisons.
Throughout the country, in places as diverse as Tucson, Miami, and Milwaukee, people are finding ways to get those with diseases such as schizophrenia, PTSD, and bipolar disorder the help they need rather than locking them up. Common among all approaches is a willingness to address the problem across systems—from the courtroom to the jail to treatment and housing.
While governors set the tone and the general direction of a state’s destiny, it is the legislature they work with — independent and made of dozens of independent minds — that controls the flow of the conversation.
Sheriff Steve Tompkins recently told a roomful of public officials and inmates that the PEACE unit—an acronym for “Positive Energy Always Creates Elevation”—is part of an effort to reshape the way people are treated behind bars.
“People that are healthy are more likely to be able to find work,” said Tom Betti, press secretary for the Ohio Department of Medicaid. “In the long run that saves taxpayer dollars. They are healthier, employed and not reincarcerated.”
A new law meant to make it easier for Missouri crime victims to request financial aid to help pay for medical coverage, counseling and other expenses appears to be working, advocates say.
“Massachusetts has been a leader in this, really taking advantage of a groundswell across the nation of general support for good reentry (programming),” said Nicole Jarrett, director of the National Reentry Resource Center.
Summit County already has strong juvenile diversion programs in place. About 90 percent of eligible youth are sent through the programs after risk assessments which include severity of their crime, whether it was their first offense and other risk factors, such as if they’re still in school or not.
U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) recently introduced their Second Chance Reauthorization Act, bipartisan legislation to reauthorize and amend the Second Chance Act, a law that supports state and local reentry programs to reduce recidivism.