In partnership with Alabama state leaders, the CSG Justice Center is working on several key criminal justice initiatives to increase public safety, including Stepping Up and Justice Reinvestment.
Justice Reinvestment in Alabama
In 2014, the CSG Justice Center embarked on a Justice Reinvestment approach in Alabama to help state leaders identify and address the most pressing criminal justice system challenges.
In 2014, Alabama had the most crowded prison system in the nation, operating at 195 percent of capacity. In addition, two-thirds of the nearly 80,000 people convicted of felonies and under correctional control were supervised in Alabama’s overwhelmed probation and parole systems, where caseloads averaged close to 200 cases per officer.
From 2014 to 2015, CSG Justice Center staff analyzed Alabama’s criminal justice data, interviewed stakeholders from across the criminal justice system, and worked with policymakers to develop data-driven policy options designed to reduce prison overcrowding and increase public safety. In May 2015, Alabama leaders enacted justice reinvestment legislation (Senate Bill 67) as a first step toward improving their justice system. Among other things, the law:
- Strengthens community-based supervision and treatment;
- Prioritizes prison space for people convicted of violent offenses and those who are most likely to reoffend;
- Provides supervision to every person released from prison; and
- Improves notification to victims regarding releases from prison.
If the policies from SB 67 are implemented properly, prison overcrowding is projected to fall from 195 to 164 percent of capacity between FY2016 and FY2021, lowering the prison population by 4,243 people during this period and averting up to $380 million in construction and operating costs by FY2021.
At a time when the overall state budget is being cut amid a fiscal crisis, Alabama state leaders continue to invest in public safety by ensuring that the justice reinvestment policies adopted in 2015 are funded appropriately. Alabama state leaders have appropriated $26.5 million in the FY2019 budget, which includes $18.5 million to hire probation and parole officers and staff and expand behavioral health community-based treatment and services, as well as $8 million to support community corrections programs (CCPs). This appropriation brings Alabama’s total reinvestment between FY2016 and FY2019 to $95.6 million.
CSG Justice Center staff provided technical assistance to Alabama on the implementation of its justice reinvestment policies by:
- Helping state leaders establish a strong oversight structure and conduct stakeholder engagement to ensure ongoing support for and sustainability of implementation;
- Strengthening probation, parole, and CCP supervision through effective implementation of new supervision policies and staff training in evidence-based practices;
- Implementing parole decision-making guidelines to prioritize prison space for people convicted of the most violent offenses and those who are most likely to reoffend; and
- Developing a strategy to maximize reinvestment funds for behavioral health treatment to expand access for people on probation and parole.
- Justice Reinvestment in Alabama: Overview (June 10, 2014): This overview highlights recent criminal justice trends in Alabama that the Prison Reform Task Force will be exploring in coming months as part of the state’s justice reinvestment effort. Trends highlighted in the report include prison and community supervision populations, crime and arrest, and recidivism.
- Justice Reinvestment in Alabama: First Presentation (June 10, 2014): This presentation to Alabama’s Prison Reform Task Force introduces the Justice Reinvestment process, provides an overview of criminal justice data trends in Alabama, details the guiding principles behind what works to reduce recidivism, and provides case studies from other states’ Justice Reinvestment efforts.
- Justice Reinvestment in Alabama: Second Presentation (September 30, 2014): This presentation details analyses of arrest, felony conviction, sentence length, prison release, and community supervision trends.
- Justice Reinvestment in Alabama: Third Presentation (December 11, 2014): This presentation details analyses of felony sentencing to prison trends, as well as parole board practices, prison release and community supervision trends.
- Justice Reinvestment in Alabama: Fourth Presentation (January 29, 2015): This presentation provides an overview of criminal justice system challenges and details the Justice Reinvestment policy recommendations and their estimated impact on the prison population.
- Justice Reinvestment in Alabama: Analysis and Policy Framework (March 12, 2015): This report summarizes comprehensive analyses of sentencing, corrections, probation, and parole data. It outlines strategies and policy options to reduce the prison population and recidivism in the state. The report also offers strategies for supporting victims of crime.
- Justice Reinvestment in Alabama: Alabama’s Justice Reinvestment Approach (May 21, 2015): Faced with the most crowded prison system in the nation and overwhelmed probation and parole systems, state leaders in Alabama pursued Justice Reinvestment. After extensive analyses identified key challenges in the state’s criminal justice system, policymakers developed a policy framework designed to reduce prison overcrowding and strengthen community-based supervision. Justice Reinvestment legislation was enacted in May 2015 and is projected to avert $380 million in construction and operations cost by FY2021.
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