Ohio and North Carolina Enact Justice Reinvestment Policies: Bipartisan Legislation Saves States Hundreds of Millions of Dollars
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.
Since 1994, when it established a structured sentencing system, NC has long been considered a model state for its approach to managing the capacity of its prison system. Increasing numbers of probation revocations and various sentence enhancements have since increased the pressure on the prison system. Recently, the General Assembly received a projection forecasting a 10 percent growth in the prison population, or about 3,900 inmates, by 2020.
Like North Carolina, Ohio's criminal justice system faced pressures that, in 2008, led a bipartisan group including the governor, chief justice, and legislative leaders to employ a justice reinvestment approach. With nearly 51,000 people locked up on any given day, the prisons were 33 percent over capacity. The state projected that the system would grow by another 3,000 people by 2015. Much of that could be traced to people convicted of property and drug offenses, who received short sentences and were subsequently released from prison with no supervision.
The CSG Justice Center's Justice Reinvestment Initiative to address corrections spending and public safety is a partnership with the Public Safety Performance Project of the Pew Center on the States and the Bureau of Justice Assistance, U.S. Department of Justice. These efforts have provided similar data-driven analyses and policy options to state leaders in 14 states.
The Council of State Governments Justice Center is a national nonprofit organization that serves policymakers at the local, state, and federal levels from all branches of government. The Justice Center provides practical, nonpartisan advice and consensus-driven strategies, informed by available evidence, to increase public safety and strengthen communities.