Public Safety

Even as partisan tension increases in advance of the 2016 elections, national policymakers on both sides of the aisle can cite one area where many find broad agreement: The need for comprehensive criminal justice reform. In Washington, D.C., growing momentum behind efforts to reform the criminal justice system has pushed the issue to the forefront of lawmakers’ agendas for the fall. For example, pressure has intensified to reauthorize federal funding for programs that support successful reentry of formerly incarcerated individuals. This momentum for change to the federal system reflects lessons learned from states where system innovations and improvements have made an impact on recidivism and other criminal justice outcomes over the past decade.

Grand juries historically were responsible for formally charging felony defendants in federal courts and in many state courts. Their role has changed very little to the present. However, recent events have caused some to question whether they are still a necessary component of those systems. The article below addresses the pros and cons of the modern grand jury process, as well as describing its historical roots.

Tens of millions of Americans have criminal records, and for even the most qualified among them, finding a job can be incredibly difficult. When these people remain unemployed, it’s bad for them, certainly, but also bad for their communities. Thus, a number of states and localities have adopted so-called “Fair Hiring” practices, which seek to ensure job applicants with criminal records can show a potential employer their qualifications before being required to reveal their criminal histories.

It’s not just cold air slamming against warm that creates disasters. Disasters come from a variety of threats: rising rivers and unprecedented snowfalls, cyberattacks and infectious diseases. There are also other kinds of risks, such as inadequate budgets and shifting political sands. Regardless of the cause, the consequences are predictable and can be tragic. Disasters hurt people and property. They tear lives apart. They can make political careers or bring them to a screeching halt. Disasters can change the course of history. While disasters can be difficult and present challenges to a neighborhood, community, state and a nation, their impact can be mitigated through strong and decisive action. Often, the only thing standing between the worst outcomes and manageable ones are citizens and public officials who refuse to be helpless pawns or victims, but instead prepare for the inevitable, conduct a thorough response and develop together a well-thought out recovery that acknowledges evolving threats without fear.

The word “data” may appear to many policymakers and managers as a modern-day “open sesame,” to enter the cave of well-run states. But, while gathering facts and figures is a crucial first step, actually analyzing, utilizing and communicating them is the key to progress. That’s not easy.

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina violently slammed into the Gulf Coast, leaving more than a million people in the Gulf Coast region displaced, Louisiana Secretary of State Tom Schedler is looking back and issuing a somber reminder to state officials: Make sure that your contingency planning for disasters includes elections.

Since 1996, 18 states lifted their bans on food stamp eligibility for felony drug convictions, 26 states have issued partial bans for certain types of felony convictions, and only 6 states have full bans for those with any record of a felony drug conviction. The six states with full bans are Alaska, Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina, West Virginia and Wyoming.

CSG Midwest
As Indiana Rep. Charlie Brown sees it, a new plan to enroll eligible inmates in Medicaid has the chance to be a win-win for his state and its taxpayers: Reduce recidivism by giving more people the health services they need, and cut long-term costs in the criminal justice system.
Signed into law earlier this year, HB 1269 (of which Brown was a co-sponsor) received overwhelming legislative approval, and it is part of a broader trend that has states looking for new ways to improve outcomes for state and local inmates, who have disproportionately high rates of mental illness and substance abuse.
CSG Midwest
Veterans treatment courts operate in most states in the Midwest, and there are more than 200 nationally. Most of these are run by county or other local court systems, and the treatment court usually convenes once a week, depending on the need. Currently, about 11,000 veterans are being served by these courts.
First adopted in Buffalo, N.Y., in 2008, veterans treatment courts are based on the drug-court model, and also include features of mental health courts. These courts integrate alcohol and drug treatment, as well as mental health services, into the justice system.
CSG Midwest

Illinois lawmakers say a series of legislative reforms this year will help “right-size” the state’s juvenile justice system. The bills were signed into law in July. Under SB 1560, minors will not be committed to Department of Juvenile Justice facilities for misdemeanor offenses, and minors cannot be detained in a county jail for “status offenses.”