Justice Reinvestment in North Carolina

In 2010, the CSG Justice Center embarked on a Justice Reinvestment approach in North Carolina to help state leaders identify and address the most pressing criminal justice system challenges.

In 2010, North Carolina’s prison population was projected to grow by 10 percent over the coming decade. At the time, probation revocations accounted for more than half of prison admissions, and only about 15 percent of people released from prison were receiving supervision. From 2010 to 2011, the CSG Justice Center worked with North Carolina state leaders to develop data-driven policy options designed to reduce corrections spending and increase public safety. CSG Justice Center staff interviewed stakeholders across the criminal justice system and conducted a comprehensive analysis of North Carolina’s criminal justice data. Signed into law in 2011, the Justice Reinvestment Act:

  • Requires mandatory supervision for everyone convicted of felonies upon release from prison;
  • Empowers probation officers to use swift and certain jail sanctions in response to violations of conditions of supervision;
  • Increases sentences for people convicted of repeat breaking-and-entering offenses; and
  • Provides substance use treatment, cognitive behavioral services, and other evidence-based programming to people on supervision who have the greatest need for treatment and are at the highest risk of reoffending.

Between FY2011 and FY2019, probation revocations declined approximately 25 percent, admissions to prison declined 16 percent, and the state’s prison population dropped 12 percent. By 2015, the state closed 11 small prisons and reinvested savings in 175 additional probation and parole officers, expanded electronic monitoring, and cognitive behavioral interventions and substance use treatment for people with the greatest need for treatment and who are at the highest risk of reoffending. The state’s crime rate has fallen 26 percent since enactment of Justice Reinvestment legislation. North Carolina reports saving and averting more than $543 million in corrections costs.

The CSG Justice Center provided technical assistance to North Carolina on the implementation of its Justice Reinvestment policies. In particular, the CSG Justice Center helped North Carolina redesign its treatment program for people on supervision, measure program fidelity, and implement swift and certain sanctions.

It’s been an extremely successful program for the state, the counties, and the whole criminal justice system—and even for the inmates. The state doesn’t have to build more prisons, jails with available beds get used, and incarcerated individuals stay closer to home. They aren’t mixing with people convicted of more serious offenses and learning how to commit more serious crimes.
Edmond Caldwell
Executive Vice President and General Counsel, North Carolina Sheriffs’ Association