About the Law Enforcement Program

The Council of State Governments Justice Center's Law Enforcement Program focuses on the role of law enforcement in the criminal justice system. Two key project areas are centered on specialized policing responses (SPR) to individuals with mental illnesses and on engaging local law enforcement in efforts to improve reentry outcomes for individuals returning to their communities after incarceration.

The Justice Center has a long history of working successfully with law enforcement administrators and practitioners to improve responses to people with mental illnesses, beginning with its 2002 landmark Consensus Project Report, which was developed over a two-year period and provided more than 20 detailed recommendations for collaborative policing responses. In partnership with national law enforcement experts, the Justice Center continues to work with individual communities across the country to improve the outcomes of officers’ encounters with people with mental illnesses and has published a series of guides for law enforcement leaders and their community partners to develop and enhance initiatives that make it safer and easier for law enforcement to connect people with mental illnesses to services when appropriate.

The Justice Center also works with a diverse group of law enforcement leaders, other public safety professionals, social service providers, and policymakers on both sides of the aisle to develop collaborative strategies that support the reintegration of people returning from prisons and jails to their communities but also to hold them accountable for their actions while improving public safety.

These stakeholders recognize that no single agency can effectively address the reentry challenge. Today’s high rates of recidivism point to significant public safety challenges for jurisdictions of all sizes. These rates also reflect the reality that people returning home from prison or jail still face a number of significant hurdles that may prevent them from reestablishing themselves in the community, maintaining legitimate employment, and averting future criminal acts.

Law enforcement and partner agencies that seek to prevent future crimes and victimization develop reentry strategies that are a natural extension of law enforcement’s community policing activities and strong relationships with stakeholders. Using proven problem-solving approaches, law enforcement professionals collaboratively identify the factors that drive recidivism, analyze the causes, and then develop and continually evaluate efforts that address reentry issues.