Justice System

In 2008, more than 28,000 people were released from Ohio’s prisons. Three years later, close to one-third of them had returned. Most came back because they committed new crimes, others because of violations of their parole. It is a revolving door in Ohio and states across the country that lawmakers have been aggressively trying to close in order to improve public safety and save taxpayer dollars. These efforts appear to be paying off, according to a report released in September by The Council of State Governments Justice Center.

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...

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.

This Act generally requires a court, when admonishing a jury against conversation, research,  or dissemination of information pursuant to the trial, to clearly explain, as part of the admonishment, that the prohibition applies to all forms of electronic and wireless communication. It requires the officer in charge of a jury to prevent any form of electronic or wireless communication. The Act makes violating such admonishment punishable as civil or criminal contempt of court.

The Research Division of the North Carolina General Assembly reports North Carolina Session Law 2011-192, as amended by S.L. 2011-412 (HB 335), revises state criminal laws, criminal procedure laws, and probation statutes. The Act is based upon recommendations of The Council of State Governments Justice Center, working in conjunction with state agencies and officials. Known as the Justice Reinvestment Project, the working group received input from criminal justice practitioners and stakeholders from around the state, including superior and district court judges, district attorneys, defense attorneys, behavioral health treatment providers, family members, consumers, law enforcement officials, victim advocates, and probation officers. The goal of their work was to develop a statewide policy framework to reduce spending on corrections and reinvest in strategies to increase public safety. 

Justice Center Releases New Brief on Enrolling People with SMI in Benefits

For people with serious mental illnesses (SMI) leaving jail and prison, Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income/Social Security Disability Insurance (SSI/SSDI) benefits can help ensure access to health care, housing, and other essential supports in the critical period immediately following release. The 2009 passage of healthcare reform legislation expands eligibility for Medicaid, making access to benefits even more important in the transition-to-community process. However, as many practitioners who work with these individuals know, benefits enrollment can be a complex and confusing process.

By Sue Bell Cobb, Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice

How many times as a trial judge did I say to victims of crime, troubled youth or dysfunctional families, “I wish I could snap my fingers and make things better. I wish I could snap my fingers and undo all the harm that has caused you to be in court today. Unfortunately, I do not have that kind of power.”

According to a recent article in the New York Times, stagnant salaries for judges and the growing pay gap between public and private legal salaries have led to increased turnover for judges – especially in New York. In that state, turnover has markedly increased over the last few years with almost 1 in 10 judges now leaving annually.  New York judges have not had a raise in 12 years and other legal professionals, including partners at top law firms, can earn 10 times as much as their judicial counterparts.

CSG Research & Expertise in the News: 6/26-7/2, 2011

The following compilation features published news stories during the week of June 26-July 2 that highlight experts and/or research from The Council of State Governments. For more information about any of the experts or programs discussed, please contact CSG at (800) 800-1910 and you will be directed to the appropriate staff.  Members of the press should call (859) 244-8246.