The Bismarck Tribune has supported justice reforms for some time and believes last week’s report showing the penitentiary population declined 6.5 percent is a sign of improvement.
An awareness of criminal justice reforms and not overusing incarceration, as well as sentencing practices such as “good time” for pretrial defendants in county jails, were factors credited with the decline. “I think there’s just a number of factors: It’s admissions, releases and length of sentence. A lot of the adjustments overall, I think, are creating the reduction in people incarcerated,” Leann Bertsch, director of the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, told Tribune reporter Jack Dura.
Justice reforms over the last few years have included sentencing changes with reduced penalties for drug crimes and more support programs like Free Through Recovery. The program saw 71 percent of participants in the peer support program achieve three of four criteria for outcomes including housing, employment, involvement with law enforcement or reducing substance use.