Justice Reinvestment Initiative leads Prison Reform

The Best Of: The following article, first published on May 14, 2012, describes the critical role the “Justice Reinvestment Initiative”, led by the PEW Center for the States and the Council of State Governments, have had on the prison reform movement.

A recent Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) funded initiative is having an extraordinary effect on prison reform efforts in states across the nation. The “Justice Reinvestment Initiative” is a joint project of the PEW Center for the States, the Council of State Governmant and the Vera Institute They are providing assistance and support to states in an effort to reduce prison populations,  establish non-prison penalties for non-violent offenses, increase good time/work time for prisoners, and generally encouraging states to return or keep prisoners in local jurisdictions, while reinvesting funds saved by these reforms in “alternatives to prison”. The Council of State Government’s National Reentry Resource Center has a Resource Project Page devoted to the  “Justice Reinvestment Initiative” To access it, click on the page facsimile on the left.

According to information provided by BJA, “Justice Reinvestment is a data-driven approach to reduce corrections spending and re-direct savings to other criminal justice strategies that decrease crime and strengthen neighborhoods. They work closely with state and local policymakers to help design policies that manage the growth of the corrections system. They are finding ways to improve the availability of services, such as housing, substance abuse treatment, employment training, and positive social and family support for offenders returning to communities. They are also looking to reinvest savings generated from reductions in corrections spending to make communities safer, stronger, and healthier.”

What is incontrovertable, is that states are adopting the policy changes advocated and are passing ground-breaking reforms in many of the most conservative states in the nation (most recently Georgia, Oaklahoma, and Louisians; see articles in Facebook collumn on the right side of website).  To access comprehensive information on what the “Justice Reinvestment Initiative” is doing in a listed state, just click on the state below, and you will be linked directly to National Reentry Resource Center information:

New Study Supports California Realignment Reform

Screen Shot 2013-01-27 at 11.39.45 PMJan. 28, 2013

From a press release by CSG:

“A study has been released  by the Council of State Governments, entitled The Impact of Probation and Parole Populations on Arrests in Four California Cities” (click on image on the left for a PDF copy). The study attempts to answer a question that to date has been a matter of speculation among law enforcement and corrections officials everywhere: to what extent do people on probation and parole contribute to crime, as measured by arrests?

Researchers at the CSG Justice Center collected and matched more than 2.5 million arrest, probation, and parole records generated between January 1, 2008 and June 11, 2011. Collecting and analyzing the data required the  efforts of 11 independent agencies, including four local police jurisdictions, four county probation agencies, two county sheriffs’ departments, and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

Among the most notable findings in these four jurisdictions:

  • The majority of all adult felony and misdemeanor arrests were of people who were not currently under supervision. People under supervision accounted for only 22 percent of total arrests.
  • Whereas people under probation and parole supervision accounted for one out of every six arrests for violent crimes, they accounted for one out of every three drug arrests.
  • During a 3.5 year period in which total arrests fell by 18 percent, the number of arrests involving individuals under parole supervision declined by 61 percent and by 26 percent for individuals under probation supervision.”

It is argued that the 3.5 year study, immediately preceding the implementation of California’s Realignment Reform (starting in October, 2011) provides evidence of Realignment’s success. This preliminary information should encourage the legislature to move forward with rational prison reform, the simplification of the state’s sentencing laws, and the reduction in the extraordinary prison terms for violent crimes (that have doubled over the past thirty years).

On the other hand, sceptics of realignment, argue for an independent study of realignment, commissioned by the legislature, to determine the true effect of realignment ( see article by Dan Walters of the Sacramento Bee). To my mind, it is too early to come to any definitive conclusions, but that data should continue to be collected, while California moves forward with prison reform.



Held Over 2nd Week: Get To Know the NRRC

I printed the announcement below because it’s important for you to know about funding opportunities available through the “Second Chance Act”, but also because you need to become familiar with the National Reentry Resource Center (NRRC), and its parent organization, the Justice Center of the “Council of State Governments”. Partly it’s because, the National Reentry Resource Center provides the most comprehensive and up to date information on reentry issues. But there’s another very good reason.

The Council of State Governments represents state governments, as well as their views. It should be obvious that decisions made by state policy makers have a critical impact on state-wide reentry systems. If the courts are to become partners in those reentry systems, it will be because of decisions made at the highest state policy-making levels.  Ultimately, we need to partner with organizations that represent state governments (like CSG), to make our case for reentry courts to the states. [to see NRRC’s website, just click on facsimile on left]

Bureau of Justice Assistance Releases Three Second Chance Act Solicitations

The U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) yesterday released solicitations for three Second Chance Act grant programs that will provide funding to state and local governments and federally recognized Indian tribes. Applications are due April 24, 2012.

  • Adult Planning and Demonstration grants will provide funding to help jurisdictions plan and implement programs and strategies to reduce recidivism and ensure safe and successful reentry of adults released from prisons and jails back to the community.
    • To download this solicitation, click here.
    • To watch a 2011 webinar that was held for applicants responding to this same solicitation, clickhere.*
    • To download a PDF of the PowerPoint presentation from the 2011 webinar, click here.*
  • Adult Co-Occurring Substance Abuse and Mental Health Disorders grants will provide funding to establish or enhance residential dual diagnosis substance abuse and mental health disorder treatment programs in correctional facilities that include aftercare and recovery supportive services.
    • To download this solicitation, click here.
    • To watch a 2011 webinar that was held for applicants responding to this same solicitation, clickhere.*
    • To download a PDF of the PowerPoint presentation from the 2011 webinar, click here.*
  • Family-Based Substance Abuse grants will provide funding to establish or enhance residential substance abuse treatment programs in correctional facilities that include family supportive services.
    • To download this solicitation, click here.
    • To watch a 2011 webinar that was held for applicants responding to this same solicitation, clickhere.*
    • To download a PDF of the PowerPoint presentation from the 2011 webinar, click here.*

Applicants proposing to incorporate a “Pay for Success” model into their reentry program will receive priority consideration. To learn more about the “Pay for Success” model, please register for the Pay for Success and the Department of Justice’s Second Chance Act Solicitations webinar.

  • Date: Tuesday, March 6
  • Time: 1:00-2:00 p.m. ET

During the webinar, representatives from the Nonprofit Finance Fund will provide background on the Pay for Success concept; and BJA officials will discuss how to tailor your application to include a Pay for Success component. To register for the webinar, click here.

*These 2011 webinars and presentations are relevant for applicants responding to the 2012 solicitations.

[click here: with full credit to the National Reentry Resource Center for use of their text and website facsimile]

New Guide To Ex-Offender Housing

The Council of State Governments has published a guide to housing options for ex-offenders. The publication entitled, “Reentry Housing Options: The Policymakers’ Guide” was written by Katherine Cortes and Shawn Rogers and released June 1, 2010.

The Council describes it’s publication this way; “The policy guide provides practical steps that lawmakers and others can take to increase public safety through better access to affordable housing for individuals released to the community. It offers an overview of several commonly accessed housing options and also examines three distinct approaches to increasing the availability of these options: improving access, increasing housing stock and revitalizing neighborhoods.”

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