Thirty-five states are working to implement a new strategy called Justice Reinvestment expected to reduce crime and incarceration and save money.
“This is a new way of doing business,” explained Adam Gelb of the Pew Charitable Trust’s Public Safety Performance Project.
The strategy was the focus of a 35-state conference in San Diego in November 2014.
“In the view of Gelb and many at the San Diego summit, the challenge now is to make criminal justice policy based on reliable data on what works to prevent crime, not on ideology – such as a belief that longer prison terms solves the problem,” wrote Ted Gest, president of Criminal Justice Journalists and Washington bureau chief of The Crime Report.
Gest reported the U.S. Justice Department invested $27 million in Justice Reinvestment and a major concern among delegates was how to fund efforts when federal money ran out in October.
Low-level and historically high repeat offenders are occupying very expensive prison cells. These are primary targets for the Justice Reinvestment program.
“Stop making the justice system the default (remedy) for at-risk youth,” said one of the summit’s participants, Assistant Attorney General Karol Mason.
“Let’s not allow the pendulum to swing back,” Gelb said.
“Mason ticked off a long list of examples, such as pretrial policy changes in Delaware and Kentucky, problem-solving courts in Arkansas and West Virginia and probation and parole improvements in Louisiana, Ohio, Oregon and South Dakota,” Gest reported.
The conference sponsors revealed successes, but Pew barred the news media from most of the workshops involving roles of prosecutors, judges and public opinion. Pew felt participants might not speak as openly on certain subjects with reporters present.
A Pew report states that prison numbers in many states will continue to rise in the coming years, due to the daunting task of reforming the current justice system.
It was a mistake for conservatives to measure the success of anticrime policies by “putting more people in prison,” said Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform. Conservatives should have looked at outputs, not just inputs, Norquist added.