In North Dakota, a justice reinvestment approach resulted in sweeping changes to improve community-based treatment for people in the criminal justice system and to increase the number of treatment providers to serve this population. This publication presents a full summary of the justice reinvestment process and legislation.
Over the past decade, the number of people in North Dakota’s prisons and jails, on probation, and on parole has increased, and the state and county governments have spent tens of millions of dollars expanding the capacity of existing correctional facilities and building new facilities to accommodate this growth. Unless action is taken, the prison population is projected to grow by 36 percent by FY2022 at a cost of $130 million to accommodate the projected growth.
To address these challenges, Governor Jack Dalrymple, Chief Justice Gerald VandeWalle, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner, House Majority Leader Al Carlson, Senate Minority Leader Mac Schneider, House Minority Leader Kenton Onstad, and Legislative Management Chairman Raymond Holmberg requested intensive technical assistance from The Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center with support from The Pew Charitable Trusts and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance to use a data-driven justice reinvestment approach to help the state reduce the corrections population, contain corrections spending, and reinvest a portion of the savings in strategies that can reduce recidivism and increase public safety. The Incarceration Issues Committee—which included stakeholders from all three branches of government—worked with CSG Justice Center staff to review analyses and develop policy options.
On April 21, 2017, Governor Doug Burgum signed Senate Bill 2015 and House Bill 1041, which will curb prison population growth by reducing the number of people in prison who have committed lower-level felony offenses and who have violated the conditions of their supervision by placing them on probation and limiting length of stay, respectively. As a result, prison space will be prioritized for people who are convicted of serious and violent offenses, and supervision resources will be focused on people who are most likely to reoffend. By implementing these policies, the state will avert a minimum of $18.1 million in corrections costs by 2022 and will be able to reinvest those savings in strategies that can reduce recidivism and increase public safety.
The state appropriated $7 million under SB 2015 to improve the quality of community-based behavioral health services for people in the criminal justice system and $500,000 to increase the number of treatment providers that can serve this population. The establishment of the Free Through Recovery (FTR) program was announced by Governor Burgum in September 2017 and launched the following February with 13 initial community providers offering services in locations throughout the state. The CSG Justice Center provided implementation assistance by engaging and training community providers and supervision officers to build local FTR care teams, developing performance measures to monitor FTR impacts, and conducting preliminary process evaluations to strengthen the program model. To date, the number of FTR providers has grown to 23, and more than 800 participants have been referred to the program.
The final report of the CSG Justice Center outlines a comprehensive series of policy recommendations developed in collaboration with the North Dakota Incarceration Issues Committee.
The Justice Reinvestment Policy Framework presented to the Incarceration Issues Committee offers four pragmatic policy options that are projected to reduce the forecasted prison population in 2022 by 13 percent, avoiding $36.3 million in contract prison bed costs.