Ringing in 2018: Justice Reinvestment and Public Safety in the States

By CSG Justice Center Staff

Six states enacted historic policy changes to their adult criminal justice systems in 2017.

Six states enacted historic policy changes to their adult criminal justice systems in 2017.

In 2017, states continued to adopt cost-effective and data-driven solutions to improve public safety. Bipartisan majorities in Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Montana, North Dakota, and Rhode Island all successfully enacted historic policy changes to their adult criminal justice systems after conducting intensive data analysis through the Justice Reinvestment Initiative. This initiative is funded through the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) and the Pew Charitable Trusts. Expert teams, including staff from The Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center, partner with state leaders to help analyze data and collect input from stakeholders to better understand a state’s unique criminal justice circumstances.

In November 2017, state and local leaders from all 50 states convened at the 50-State Summit on Public Safety to take a hard look at crime trends, behavioral health needs, and other criminal justice system pressures. The summit prepared state leaders to develop effective solutions that elected officials at all levels of government can support to solve public safety challenges.

In 2018, the CSG Justice Center looks forward to partnering with state and local leaders from all three branches to design and implement innovative and data-driven changes to reduce violent crime and recidivism and increase the effectiveness of behavioral health treatment and resources. Here is a preview of what is to come:

Missouri: Troubling Trends Met with Unanimous Recommendations

Missouri is confronting an uptick in violent crime, a fast-growing female prison population, and a sizeable portion of prison admissions that are driven by untreated behavioral health issues. At the end of 2017, the state’s Justice Reinvestment Task Force unanimously voted to adopt a comprehensive set of policy recommendations to address these trends. If the legislature and executive branch adopt the recommendations, the state will begin investing in expanding community-based treatment options instead of building several new prisons.

Ohio: Justice Reinvestment Initiative Gets Underway

Ohio leaders are using a justice reinvestment approach to address an uptick in certain violent crimes as well as the impact of the opioid crisis on the state’s criminal justice system. Ohio’s capacity to invest resources in tackling these local public safety challenges is hindered by high corrections spending and a large prison population. This year, state leaders will be examining data, seeking input from stakeholders, and carefully considering solutions.

50-State Workbooks and Report

As a follow-up to the 50-State Summit on Public Safety, the CSG Justice Center will release 50 state-specific workbooks that highlight analyses of data on crime, arrests, recidivism, correctional populations, and more. The CSG Justice Center will also release a web-based report that includes a detailed analysis of the national and state criminal justice data discussed at the summit along with research findings, case studies, and steps that states can take to reduce crime and recidivism, improve outcomes for people who have mental illnesses and substance use disorders, and reduce corrections spending.

State Forums on Public Safety

BJA is providing support for 25 states to host a State Forum on Public Safety. Criminal justice experts from the CSG Justice Center or the Crime and Justice Institute will travel to selected states to facilitate a data-rich public safety discussion between a broad cross-section of policymakers, criminal justice professionals, behavioral health practitioners, and advocates, and meet with state leaders to identify opportunities to increase public safety.

New Justice Reinvestment Opportunities

On the heels of the State Forums on Public Safety, five states will be selected in 2018 to use a justice reinvestment approach to conduct intensive data analysis of their criminal justice systems and develop policy solutions to public safety challenges.

Maintaining Momentum in Justice Reinvestment States

Implementation support to sustain and track policies adopted in Arkansas, Georgia, Montana, North Dakota, and Rhode Island through the Justice Reinvestment Initiative will continue. Later this year, policymakers in Pennsylvania and Massachusetts are expected to consider legislation generated through their justice reinvestment efforts to help curb recidivism and invest in effective strategies to improve public safety.