Nebraska lawmakers are hoping a new law will reduce the number of individuals being housed in county jails due to the financial inability to pay bail bonds or court-ordered fines and fees.
Sen. Matt Hansen says he initially became concerned about the increasing jail population when he heard that the county jail built in his district in 2013 was already approaching capacity. He learned that many of the individuals being held hadn’t actually been sentenced to jail time — they either couldn’t make their bail and were awaiting trial, or couldn’t pay a fine or fee.
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 2015, HB 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admissions: 1) people convicted of low-level, nonviolent crimes, and 2) individuals whose probation or parole had been revoked.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.
Starting with the next school year, K-12 officials in Michigan will be required to consider certain factors before suspending or expelling students, under a set of new laws that aim to reduce the number of students who are removed from school.
“Public education is a great way to improve people’s lives, but that requires them to be in school,” says Rep. Adam Zemke, who was part of a bipartisan group of legislators that led efforts to pass the bills (HB 5618-5621 and HB 5693-5695) late last year.
K-12 education consistently makes up the largest share of state general fund spending each year, hovering between 34 percent and 36 percent since 1996, according to the National Association of State Budget Officers. In fiscal year 2015, more than $260 billion went to elementary and secondary education. Although no two states distribute education dollars exactly the same way, the vast majority of funding formulas are built around a “foundation” or “base” amount of funding that is the minimum each student receives.
Three nuclear plants in the Midwest are scheduled to cease operations permanently over the next two years, on the heels of other recent, unexpected closures of plants around the country, including Kewaunee in Wisconsin.
This school year, officials of K-12 public schools in Illinois are revisiting their student-discipline policies in accordance with a new law that aims to reduce the number of students who receive out-of-school suspensions and expulsions.
“The goal is to ensure that this only happens when absolutely necessary,” says Illinois Sen. Kimberly Lightford, the sponsor of SB 100.
For instances in which a student commits minor misconduct, the new Illinois law requires school leaders to use non-exclusionary methods of discipline — such as in-school suspension, detention or loss of privileges — and to exhaust all other methods of intervention before removing the student.