Saturday, February 4, 2012

Budget Shortfalls Drive Prison Reform

Prisons are shrinking. The principle reason for the decline is the reduction in state revenues caused by the recession, according to a report by The Sentencing Project, The State of Sentencing in 2011. The statistics are impressive. Thirteen states closed prisons during the last year.

At least 40 states made cuts to correctional expenditures between 2009 and 2010 by reducing labor costs, eliminating prison programs and making food-service and medical care changes. 

Prison population declined in 25 states in 2010. A number of states have worked to reduce prison population to manage costs. Overall, state prison populations declined in admissions by more than 27,700 persons or 0.8 percent in recent years.

During 2011, state legislatures in at least 29 states adopted 55 criminal justice policies that may contribute to continued population reductions and address the collateral consequences associated with felony convictions, according to The Sentencing Project report.

Here is a summary from the report:

Key Criminal Justice Policy Reforms and Legislation Passed in 2011

Alabama-- Limited Incarceration for Probation Violators

Arkansas-- Revised Drug Statutes; Reformed Sentencing Practices to Reduce Recidivism; and Enacted Expungement Provision

California --Authorized County Jail Detention for Certain State Prisoners

Colorado--codified Sentencing Standards; Established Presumption of Parole Standard; and

Authorized Early Termination of Community Corrections Sentences

Connecticut--Expanded Risk Reduction Credits; Reduced Penalty for Certain Marijuana Offenses; Enacted Medical Response to Overdose Protection; and Restricted Incarceration of Certain Juveniles

Delaware--Restructured Drug Code; Authorized Use of Medical Marijuana; Opted out of Federal

Food Stamp Ban for Persons with Felony Drug Convictions; and Established

Expungement Policy for Specified Juvenile Offenses

Florida--Expanded Eligibility for Drug Court Participation; Eliminated Incarceration as a Sentencing Option for Certain Youth

Georgia-- Permitted Sentencing Modification for Youth with Certain Felony Offenses

Idaho-- Amended Alternative to Incarceration Options; and Authorized Courts to Expunge Certain Convictions

Illinois--Repealed Death Penalty; Codified Process of Prioritizing Alternatives to Incarceration into Statute

Indiana-- Authorized Expungement of Certain Arrests and Low-level Offenses

Kentucky-- Revised Penalties for Certain Drug Offenses; Established Alternative Sentencing Options for Certain Offenses

Louisiana --Authorized Early Release for Elderly Prisoners; Enabled Sentence Reductions through Safety Valve; and Modified Parole Policies

Maryland --Modified Parole Process for Persons Sentenced to Life in Prison; Repealed Certain Parole Revocation Provisions; and Established Pilot Program to Reduce Parole Revocations

Montana-- Expanded Medical Parole Eligibility

Nebraska-- Authorized Sentence Reductions for Certain Prisoners

Nevada-- Repealed Juvenile Life without Parole for Non-Homicide Offenses

North Carolina --Limited Use of Prison as a Sentencing Option for Certain Probationers; and Established Certificate for Restoration of Civil Rights

North Dakota--Authorized Sentence Modification for Certain Prisoners

Ohio--Established Certificates of Achievement and Employability

Oklahoma-- Streamlined Parole Process

Oregon-- Expanded Expungement Policy for Persons Convicted of Certain Offenses; Restricted

Mandatory Minimums for Certain Juveniles

Rhode Island-- Authorized Discretion for Certain Sentencing Options; Extended Medical Parole Policy to Severely Ill

South Dakota-- Established Partial Early Discharge from Parole

Texas --Created New Standard to Reduce Probation Revocations; Entitled Probationers to Exit

Community Supervision Early; Clarified Election Code for Persons; Limited Misdemeanor

Citations in School; and Expanded Determinate Probation

Utah-- Restored Voting Rights for Persons with Certain Prior Convictions

Vermont-- Allowed Alternative Sentencing Options for Certain Prisoners

Washington-- Established Process to Eliminate Interest for Criminal Justice Debt

West Virginia--Increased Sentencing Reduction Terms for Program Participation

Complied for The Sentencing Project, The State of Sentencing 2011

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