By CSG Justice Center Staff
Corrections directors, state legislators, law enforcement officials and behavioral health professionals from all 50 states gathered today at The 50-State Summit on Public Safety, an unprecedented event designed to help critical leaders examine individual state trends in crime, arrests, corrections populations, addiction and mental health, and ultimately develop integrated approaches to addressing their unique challenges.
The two-day summit, organized by The Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center in partnership with the Association of State Correctional Administrators (ASCA), comes at a time when public safety officials and crime data are telling a complex story. While violent crime overall remains lower than a decade ago, its rate is no longer universally declining and is rising in some communities and overall in 18 states. That’s coupled with record lows in property crime rates. The opioid crisis has escalated to a national emergency, and law enforcement leaders describe engaging with more people with serious mental illnesses than ever before.
“The amount of data available, and opinions about what that data means, sometimes makes you feel like you’re drinking from a fire hose. There’s no shortage of action that can be taken as a corrections leader,” said John Wetzel, secretary of Pennsylvania’s Department of Corrections, who also serves as chair of the CSG Justice Center and vice president of ASCA. “This summit is a key opportunity to engage with colleagues across agencies and at all levels of government to better understand that data and accelerate the adoption of programs that truly work.”
Each of the 50 state teams attending the event are led by their respective state corrections administrator and include a key state legislator, a law enforcement official and a local behavioral health professional. Attendees of the event—which features 35 behavioral health directors, 15 chiefs of police, 12 sheriffs, and 41 state legislators—will receive state-specific workbooks developed through interviews conducted by the CSG Justice Center in each state. Those individual state data include trends in crime, arrests, recidivism, correctional populations, and behavioral health in each state, as well as case studies and examples of lessons learned.
“The intersection between the criminal justice system and people with mental illness and substance abuse disorders is more prominent than ever before, and local agencies are struggling to meet the demand for services for people in jail and on community supervision,” said Tracy Plouck, director of the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction services and Vice-Chair of the CSG Justice Center. This reality reinforces the critical role behavioral health specialists will have in the effort to preserve public safety and get people the treatment they need.”
The summit will feature discussions with leaders representing all elements of the criminal justice system from states across the country, as well as national voices, including U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin, JustLeadershipUSA’s Glenn E. Martin and Darlene Hutchinson Biehl, director of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office for Victims of Crime. The event will be broadcast live from the CSG Justice Center’s website here.
State teams will emerge from the summit having identified clear strategies for reducing crime and recidivism, improving outcomes for people with mental health and substance use disorders, and reducing spending on prisons and jails.
“In order to achieve lasting crime and recidivism reductions, state and local leaders will need to develop a more comprehensive and coordinated public safety strategy that sustains success to date and responds to the unique combination of new challenges in their states,” Arkansas State Representative Clarke Tucker said. “I know that for my team attending the summit, this is a great checkpoint to understand where things stand in our state, reestablish our engagement across different agencies and learn about new opportunities to improve our criminal justice system.”
Following the summit, state teams will be encouraged to request follow-up visits from the CSG Justice Center. Up to 25 states will be selected and invited to request additional technical assistance from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance. Additionally, the CSG Justice Center will be releasing a report in January 2018 that includes a detailed analysis of the state and local data discussed at this week’s summit.
The 50-State Summit on Public Safety is made possible by funding from by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Pew Charitable Trusts, and the Tow Foundation.