Corrections

State and federal prison populations and imprisonment rates have declined for two straight years, after increasing or remaining stable from 2000 to 2009. From 2010 to 2011, 26 states saw incarcerated populations increase, while 22 states experienced decreases and two remained about the same.

Republican and Democratic leaders from all branches of government shared their experiences using this data-driven, consensus-based approach to reduce corrections spending and increase public safety.

California voters sent mixed messages on two ballot measures related to criminal justice, passing a measure that modifies the state's harsh three-strikes law, while rejecting a measure to eliminate the state's seldom-used death penalty.

Next week, Californians will have the opportunity to revisit two major criminal justice issues previously enacted by ballot initiative: the death penalty and the three-strikes sentencing law. 

Proposition 36 will provide residents with an opportunity to modify the state's 18-year-old "three-strikes" law, which allows judges to impose a sentence of 25-years-to-life for offenders who commit a third felony, no matter how minor, if they have two...

Seven states profiled in a new brief from The Council of State Governments Justice Center’s National Reentry Resource Center have reported significant reductions in recidivism in recent years.

Franny Holland knows what it’s like to have to start over. She also knows what it’s like for someone to throw her a life preserver. Holland was serving a prison sentence in California in the late '90s and had been a heroin user for 20 years. After she was released, she said, God gave her exactly what she needed—the world’s meanest probation officer. He sent her to a rehab program for six months, where she discovered she also was bipolar. The Oklahoma Collaborative Mental Health Re-entry Program tries to throw a life preserver to people like Holland. The program is one of the 2012 Innovations Awards winners from The Council of State Governments.

The Georgia Department of Corrections had a problem with probation two years ago. It was upside down, with the majority of officers managing the probationers who were least likely to reoffend.  Of the 105,000 offenders on active probation in Georgia, more than 80,000 of them are deemed low risk and not likely to reoffend. They had to find a more efficient way to handle the high volume of low-risk offenders to free up more officers to provide better case management for higher risk offenders. Technology was the key.

Stateline Midwest

While 5 percent of the general U.S. population is affected by a serious mental illness, the rate in state prisons is much higher: 24 percent among females and 16 percent among males.

More than half the time, these illnesses occur in conjunction with substance abuse — a combination that, when left untreated, can lead to an increased risk of recidivism, according to Hallie Fader-Towe, a program director at The Council of State Governments’ Justice Center. She led a discussion on mental health and the criminal justice system at the Midwestern Legislative Conference Annual Meeting in July.

Individuals released from prison and jail and who are on community supervision have complex needs. If those needs are not met, the likelihood of their successful transition to the community is reduced, which can pose a threat to public safety. Despite the fiscal challenges many state governments have faced in recent years, policymakers and community stakeholders are increasingly aware that, in many cases, the cycle of reoffending can be broken if the right tools and approaches are used. With continued federal support and strong state and local leadership, the chance for meaningful and lasting change is within reach.

The fields of medicine, education, child welfare, mental health, probation and corrections have all been influenced by evidence-based practices. In essence, evidence-based practices are a set of guidelines—based upon rigorous research, evaluations and meta-analysis—that have proved effective in improving decision making and outcomes. In the medical world, for example, evidence-based practice refers to the “conscientious, explicit, and judicious use of current best evidence in making decisions about the care of individual patients.”1 Only recently, however, has this approach spilled over into state courts in the form of providing decision-making tools for judges at the time of criminal sentencing.

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