This presentation provides an update on analysis related to the intersection of the criminal justice and behavioral health systems in the state; an overview of criminal justice system challenges; and a summary of bill drafts in progress related to focusing community supervision resources and programming on people who have the highest risk of failing on supervision, holding people on supervision accountable, and connecting victims to services.
Wyoming’s prisons are at capacity, and 88 people from the state are already being housed at a prison in Mississippi. The prison population is projected to grow, in part because of revocations from supervision, many of which are driven by drug offenses. This growth will result in dramatic increases to the corrections budget. At the same time, recent declines in state revenue have hindered Wyoming’s ability to invest in strategies to lower recidivism and reduce crime.
To address these challenges, in March 2018, former Governor Matt Mead, Chief Justice E. James Burke, Senate President Eli Bebout, House Speaker Steve Harshman, and Department of Corrections (DOC) Director Robert Lampert requested support from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) and The Pew Charitable Trusts (Pew) to explore a Justice Reinvestment approach.
Under the direction of Wyoming’s Joint Judiciary Committee (JJC), staff from The Council of State Governments Justice Center conducted a comprehensive analysis of data and helped the JJC develop policy options that were designed to both increase public safety and contain the cost of corrections in the state. These policies were reflected in House Enrolled Act (HEA) 45 and 53 and Senate Enrolled Act (SEA) 19 and 50, which were signed into law by Governor Mark Gordon in February 2019.
The legislation provides additional tools to support judges as they determine probation terms and sentence lengths; increases support for victims of crime; holds people on probation and parole accountable with swift, certain, and proportional sanctions; and focuses probation resources on people during the time when they are most likely to fail on supervision. By achieving targeted reductions in revocations, the state expects to avert up to $18.1 million in contract bed costs by FY2024. This is money that can then be reinvested in increasing the availability and effectiveness of community-based behavioral health treatment for people on community supervision.
The second presentation to the Wyoming Legislature’s Joint Judiciary Committee provides findings and policy recommendations related to reducing recidivism among people convicted of nonviolent offenses, connecting victims to services, improving supervision and programming, and overcoming barriers for people in the criminal justice system who have behavioral health needs.
This publication outlines criminal justice trends in Wyoming—including crime trends, increases in drug arrests, prison population growth and resulting costs, and revocations from probation or parole—and summarizes the stages involved in using a Justice Reinvestment approach to address criminal justice system challenges.