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.

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.

The CSG Justice Center released a new policy brief that outlines opportunities for states and localities to improve public health and safety outcomes and reduce spending on corrections and health care services by maximizing the appropriate use of Medicaid coverage for people involved with the criminal justice system. People in prisons and jails often have complex and costly health care needs, and states and local governments currently pay almost the entirety of these individuals’ health care costs. In addition, as many as 70 to 90 percent of the some 10 million people released from prison or jail each year are uninsured. The majority of these individuals have little or no access to health care services and experience gaps in continuity of care, which are associated with poor health outcomes and increased recidivism, particularly among those with mental illnesses and substance use disorders.

The appropriate use of federal Medicaid dollars to help expand health care coverage for individuals involved with the criminal justice system presents an opportunity to achieve reductions in state and local spending, while minimizing known health and public safety concerns associated with reentry following incarceration. However, opportunities to maximize and maintain Medicaid enrollment for eligible individuals in this population, and especially to make use of Medicaid to finance certain types of care provided to those who are incarcerated, have been largely underutilized by states. This brief provides an overview of opportunities to expand health care coverage, as well as access to and continuity of care; improve public health and safety outcomes for individuals involved with the criminal justice system; and reduce state and local expenditures on corrections and health care. <--break->

October 2013 ~ Stateline Midwest

It didn’t take long for Michigan legislators to take notice of a state Supreme Court study examining the efficacy of mental health courts. Less than a month after the study’s release, the House unanimously passed a four-bill package (HB 4694-4697) that statutorily creates mental health courts, thus paving the way for judicial circuits across the state to operate them, Mlive.com reports.

Adults with behavioral health disorders are disproportionately represented in the criminal justice system. The Criminogenic Risk and Behavioral Health Needs Framework provides a starting point for corrections, mental health and substance abuse professionals to make better decisions to improve public health and safety outcomes.

Stateline Midwest ~ April 2013

Michigan, Wisconsin and North Dakota were among the nearly 30 U.S. states where imprisonment rates fell between 2006 and 2011, a March analysis of federal data done by the Pew Charitable Trusts shows.

Nationally, the imprisonment rate fell 3 percent; the U.S. crime rate decreased 13 percent over that same time period.

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.

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.