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In the spring of 2013, CJI staff Len Engel, Barbara Pierce Parker, Gabriella Priest, Felicity Rose, Tessa Upin, Colby Ward, and Ted Martinez continued CJI’s partnership with the Pew Charitable Trusts’ Public Safety Performance Project and began work in Hawaii, Kentucky, and Mississippi.  In each of these states, CJI and Pew provided technical assistance to the state’s political leaders and to a bipartisan, multi-branch commission engaged in a data-driven criminal justice reform process designed to develop legislation for the 2014 legislative session. CJI’s assistance included:

  • Stakeholder engagement,
  • Data analysis,
  • System assessments,
  • Evidence-based practices education,
  • Policy development,
  • Bill drafting, and
  • Legislative advocacy.

The projects in these three states resulted in major legislative reform, projected to save the states cumulatively over $300 million in the next five to 10 years. The Hawaii and Kentucky projects focused on juvenile justice reform, while the Mississippi project focused on reforms in the adult corrections system.

Kentucky

TASK FORCE ON THE PENAL CODE AND CONTROLLED SUBSTANCES ACT, 2010 – 2011

The Kentucky Task force on the Penal Code and Controlled Substances Act was charged to “provide to the Interim Joint Committee on Judiciary and the Legislative Research Commission draft changes to the Penal Code, the Controlled Substances Act, and other necessary statutes. The draft shall be based on the principles of ‘Justice Reinvestment’ and shall provide for alternatives to incarceration; the use of community treatment, education, and rehabilitation programs that have been proven to reduce recidivism; the monitoring of defendants where necessary; and a reduction of recidivism while protecting and enhancing public safety.”

CJI, in collaboration with Pew and JFA Associates, analyzed the drivers of the correctional population; assessed the current state of correctional interventions and their alignment with evidence-based practices; reviewed current policies to identify options for improving effectiveness and efficiency; and projected the impact of current and proposed policies on the correctional population.

As a result of the analysis and recommendations, the Task Force adopted significant changes to the state’s policies and practices. During the 2011 Regular Session, the Kentucky General Assembly enacted the Public Safety and Offender Accountability Act. Its passage was a strong bipartisan effort, passing the Senate unanimously and the House by a vote of 96 to 1.

Overall, the new law ensures there is more prison space for violent and career criminals while helping to stop the revolving door for lower-risk, non-violent offenders. The Legislative Research Commission’s fiscal note estimates the reforms will bring gross savings of $422 million over 10 years. A portion of these savings will be reinvested in efforts to reduce recidivism, including strengthening probation and parole and programs for substance abusing offenders.

TASK FORCE ON THE UNIFIED JUVENILE CODE, 2013 – 2014

“This shift away from out-of-home placement to community programs will lead to safer communities and better outcomes for Kentucky youth and their families”
~Senate Bill 200 Sponsor State Senator Whitney Westerfield

Kentucky faced challenges with their juvenile justice system, spending significant resources on out-of-home residential placement for low-level juvenile offenders.  In August of 2013, CJI began providing technical assistance, in partnership with the Pew Charitable Trusts’ Public Safety Performance Project, to the Task Force on the Unified Juvenile Code.  The Task Force issued a report to the legislature in December of 2013 with several policy recommendations.

The reforms passed the legislature in the form of Senate Bill 200 in April 2014 as a result of the Task Force’s work.  The bill provides for more effective use of resources to hold offenders accountable, achieve better outcomes for children and families, and maintain public safety.

Among the many reforms, the bill:

  • Enhances the pre-court diversion process to provide case management and a multidisciplinary oversight team which is intended to allow low-level youth to avoid court involvement;
  • Improves responses to probation violations with the use of graduated sanctions and a prohibition on commitment for probation violations;
  • Limits the length of out-of-home placement and length of supervision based on the seriousness of the offense and risk of reoffending;
  • Limits the youth that can be committed to state custody by requiring three priors before a misdemeanant or class D felon (excluding sex or firearm offenses) can be committed;
  • Requires the use of evidence-based practices; and
  • Establishes an oversight council and requirements to track data and outcomes to ensure that the reforms are effective and the intended outcomes are achieved.

Hawaii

In August of 2013, Governor Neil Abercrombie established Hawaii’s Juvenile Justice Working Group to study and address the high cost of secure confinement, poor outcomes, and the lack of community-based options in the juvenile justice system. CJI, in partnership with the Pew Charitable Trusts Public Safety Performance Project, provided technical assistance to the Working Group.

“By passing HB 2490 we are providing our most troubled youth access to services that they will benefit from, which will enrich and improve their quality of life. This bill represents a giant leap forward towards a more effective juvenile justice system that better serves our state, families, and communities.”
~ State Representative Mele Carroll.

Based on the Working Group’s recommendations, the Hawaii State Legislature passed House Bill 2490 in May of 2014. The legislation will transform the juvenile justice system statewide by reducing secure confinement, strengthening community supervision, and focusing resources on practices proven to reduce recidivism. The state is investing $1.26 million in proven delinquency interventions and implementation of the legislative package. Additionally, the reforms are projected to cut the number of youth held in the state’s secure facility by more than half over the next five years.

The bill contains many reforms, including:

  • Reducing reliance on secure confinement by prohibiting commitment of misdemeanant youth to state custody;
  • Strengthening and clarifying parole and reentry practices;
  • Increasing opportunities for diversion for less serious offenders;
  • Strengthening community supervision and probation practices with the use of a validated risk and needs assessment tool;
  • Using a system of sanctions and incentives;
  • Allowing for early discharge for compliant probationers;
  • Cultivating stakeholder collaboration by requiring data and outcome reporting.
  • Establishing an oversight council and requirements to track data and outcomes to ensure that the reforms are effective and the intended outcomes are achieved.

Mississippi

“HB 585 is the single largest improvement to Mississippi’s criminal justice system in a generation. The recommendations made by the task force are truly transformative and bode well for the future of Mississippi. I applaud the work of everyone involved in this legislation – Task Force members, legislators, judges and justices, and stakeholders from across our state – for their dedication to this successful process. This was a huge undertaking.” – Speaker of the Mississippi House of Representatives Philip Gunn

In 2012, Mississippi had the second-highest incarceration rate in the country and the prison population was projected to grow by nearly 2,000 inmates at a cost of $266 million over 10 years. In 2013, Governor Phil Bryant established the Corrections and Criminal Justice Task Force to study the issue, and CJI provided technical assistance to the Task Force in partnership with the Pew Charitable Trusts; Public Safety Performance Project.

To address the state’s growing prison population, state lawmakers passed House Bill 585 in March of 2014, a 200-page bill based on recommendations from the Task Force  which, among many reforms:

  • Creates presumptive probation for certain low-level, non-violent offenses;
  • Reduces the maximum sentence for first-time commercial drug convictions from 30 years to 8 years;
  • Broadens judicial discretion to impose alternatives to prison for felony convictions;
  • Establishes a presumptive parole process for inmates who complete institutional programming;
  • Caps the amount of time a judge and the parole board may impose for a probation or parole revocation;
  • Allows a judge to depart from imposing a mandatory minimum sentence for drug trafficking offenses;
  • Creates graduated sanctions to respond more quickly and effectively to probation and parole violations;
  • Requires the use of a validated risk and needs assessment to determine supervision levels;
  • Creates an earned discharge program allowing compliant offenders to reduce the period of supervision; and
  • Establishes an oversight council to track data and outcomes to ensure that the reforms are effective and the intended outcomes are achieved.

These policy changes are intended to avert all of the projected growth in the prison population, improve public safety through reduced recidivism, and hold offenders accountable.