CSG Justice Center

CSG Midwest
In April, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum signed into law a suite of bills that aims to curb the state’s correctional costs, reform its probation and parole systems, and increase access to community-based behavioral health programs. The enacted legislation (SB 2015HB 1041 and HB 1269) was the product of a justice reinvestment study authorized two years ago by the North Dakota Legislative Assembly in response to the state’s rapidly growing prison population.
Between 2005 and 2015, federal data show, North Dakota’s prison population increased 34 percent — the second-largest rise, behind Indiana, among the 11 Midwestern states (see map). Without action, North Dakota’s prison population was projected to grow by 36 percent between 2016 and 2022, at a cost of more than $100 million for the state.
Last year, The Council of State Governments Justice Center and a bipartisan committee of North Dakota legislators and justice system officials conducted a comprehensive review of state data to determine the causes of this trend. Two populations, the study found, were driving nearly three-quarters of the state’s prison admissions: 1) people convicted of low-level, nonviolent crimes, and 2) individuals whose probation or parole had been revoked. Within these populations, drug abuse was a driving factor behind their imprisonment.

Over the last 40 years, local jails have increasingly become de facto psychiatric treatment facilities for the millions of people with mental illnesses and substance use disorders who become involved with the local criminal justice system. Counties and states are at the breaking point, many without the resources or capacity to address this population’s mental health needs while ensuring an appropriate criminal justice response and protecting public safety. The national Stepping Up movement offers state and local governments a roadmap for navigating the complicated process of addressing this urgent issue.

Representatives from correctional systems in 12 states came together in early March to set strategies for and share experiences related to reducing recidivism in their states and across the country. Convened by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance, or BJA, and The Council of State Governments Justice Center’s National Reentry Resource Center, the 2016 Statewide Recidivism Reduction, or SRR, Forum brought together grantees of the SRR program—one of the Second Chance Act grants offered by BJA, which challenges state correctional systems and their partners to reduce recidivism and serve as models for the rest of the country. BJA officials—including Deputy Director Kristen Mahoney, Associate Deputy Director Ruby Qazilbash and Policy Advisor Andre Bethea—were on hand to discuss best practices.

Each year, more than 10 million adults are released from jail or prison. One in 31 adults is under correctional supervision on any given day in the U.S.; it is estimated that 70 million adults have a criminal record. Across the political spectrum, people agree that efforts to help these individuals stay out of prison or jail and to succeed in the community must include a strategy focused on assisting them to get and maintain a job. As part of the CSG State Pathways to Prosperity initiative, the CSG Justice Center has been working with local and state governments, as well as leaders in the business community, to test and evaluate approaches that work to reduce recidivism and improve employment outcomes. This session reviewed what has been learned to date and highlight the perspectives of state leaders who are tackling this challenge.

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.