Last year, states across the country faced unexpected and urgent challenges due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite these pressing priorities, this year’s State of the State addresses show that criminal justice remains a key area of focus for governors from states of all sizes and across the political spectrum. Although most states are now facing budget shortfalls as a result of the pandemic, many of their criminal justice priorities will help them reduce recidivism and save costs while advancing public safety and second chances.
Among their top concerns, many governors have focused on issues such as the following:
- Law enforcement reforms, including training, community engagement, and compensation
- Addressing racial inequities through racial justice task forces and examining racial bias in arrests and sentencing
- Supporting reentry efforts by providing second chance employment opportunities and strengthening probation and parole
Many governors also outlined plans for mental health and substance use treatment options. These mentions are included because of the prevalence of people in the criminal justice system with behavioral health needs. Expanding community treatment and services can ultimately reduce criminal justice costs and recidivism by preventing avoidable contact with the justice system and connecting people to the care they need.
Justice Issues Covered by Governors in Their State of the State Remarks (as of February 12, 2021)
|Law Enforcement||14 mentions|
|Reentry and Recidivism Reduction||6|
|Substance Use Treatment||3|
|Criminal Justice Reform||2|
|Prison Environment and Staffing||1|
Hover over states in the map below to see excerpts from governors’ 2021 State of the State speeches: