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->

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.”

State prison populations experienced a slight decline between 2008 and 2009, while the federal population increased 3.4 percent.  However, state prison populations have risen significantly - up by 13 percent - since 2000.  

Over a two-week period in June, a bipartisan group of state leaders from across the political spectrum in both North Carolina and Ohio came together in their respective states to enact comprehensive, data-driven legislation resulting from justice reinvestment initiatives. The bills in both states will increase public safety and reduce crime by making probation more effective, ensuring, for example, that those people who are most likely to reoffend are not left unsupervised. Both bills increase sentence lengths for certain high-risk property offenders or the most serious and violent offenders, while expanding sentencing options for nonviolent and first-time felony offenders.

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.

Like most states, Alabama is currently facing the crisis of an overcrowded prison population and a recidivism rate that significantly threatens public safety and exacerbates already bleak state and local government budget shortfalls. Rather than continue to spend vast sums of money on a system that is clearly broken, Alabama is beginning the process of interbranch cooperation to implement effective reforms in the areas of sentencing and corrections at the state and local levels. A number of efforts are currently underway. For the sake of public safety and stark financial reality, Alabama must continue to modify its laws and carry out reforms to lower the costly burden of corrections and stop the revolving door of recidivism.

For the first time since 1977, the nation’s state prison population is on the decline, and Illinois, Michigan, Nebraska, Ohio and Wisconsin are among the 24 states that contributed to the decrease.

Suggested State Legislation: This Act establishes a process to release inmates with certain medical conditions. The Act directs the state parole and probation commission to set reasonable conditions on medical release that will apply for any length of time determined by the commission through the date the inmate's sentence would have expired.