By the CSG Justice Center Staff
Leaders from both political parties and all three branches of government gathered on Jan. 26th in Memorial Hall at the State Capitol to launch a review of North Dakota’s criminal justice system to address pressures on the system and avert costly future expansions of the state’s correctional facilities.
Gov. Jack Dalrymple, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, Chief Justice Gerald VandeWalle, and Sen. Ron Carlisle announced the start of a Justice Reinvestment Initiative designed to reduce recidivism, lower corrections spending, and increase public safety for North Dakotans.
Between 2005 and 2013, reported index crime in the state increased by 6 percent, and the prison population spiked by 19 percent, pushing the state’s correctional facilities to capacity. If no action is taken, the prison population is expected to grow another 75 percent between 2015 and 2025, from 1,751 to 3,061 people.
“We welcome this opportunity to further review our criminal justice system and build on our work to reduce recidivism and to ensure that spending on corrections is as cost-effective as possible, while adhering to our high standards of public safety,” Gov. Jack Dalrymple said.
The rise in the prison population has led to increases in corrections spending. From biennial budget years 2005 to 2015, General Fund appropriations to DOCR increased 114 percent, from $83 million to $178 million.
More than half of the incarcerated population in North Dakota is being held in county jails, causing a strain on those facilities. Between 2005 and 2015, the county jail population increased by 82 percent, from 959 to 1,754 people.
The criminal justice system review will be carried out through a collaboration between the state’s Incarceration Issues Committee and the CSG Justice Center. The process will take place in partnership with The Pew Charitable Trusts and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance and will include a top-to-bottom analysis of the state’s criminal justice system, culminating in the delivery of a comprehensive policy package for consideration by state leaders during the 2017 legislative session.
“The legislature has focused on criminal justice policy in recent sessions and we are looking forward to continuing this work with the Justice Reinvestment Initiative,” said Sen. Ron Carlisle, who chairs the Incarcerations Issues Committee.
The committee met in the Rough Rider room immediately after the announcement of the launch to hear a presentation about trends in the North Dakota criminal justice system from the CSG Justice Center.