COVID-19 Assistance for the Justice Community
The ever-changing nature of the COVID-19 pandemic requires policymakers and criminal justice practitioners to rapidly adapt their day-to-day operations to the situation at hand. While the pace and scale of the crisis can be overwhelming, the CSG Justice Center is committed more than ever to supporting its members—state and local officials working in all three branches of government in criminal and juvenile justice, behavioral health, housing, and labor.
In partnership with Wyoming state leaders, the CSG Justice Center is working on several key criminal justice initiatives to increase public safety, including Justice Reinvestment.
Justice Reinvestment in Wyoming
In March 2018, the CSG Justice Center embarked on a Justice Reinvestment approach in Wyoming to help state leaders identify and address the most pressing criminal justice and behavioral health system challenges.
Wyoming’s prisons are at capacity, and a number people from the state were 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 Wyoming’s justice system 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.
- Justice Reinvestment in Wyoming: Policy Framework (June 17, 2019): The final report outlines policy recommendations developed in collaboration with Wyoming’s Joint Judiciary Committee that were reflected in a package of legislation signed into law in February 2019.
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