The comprehensive criminal justice reform legislation up for debate this week in the Senate is a noteworthy achievement in every respect but one–its failure to take on the delicate subject of reinvestment.
Criminal justice reform is largely about offering alternatives to incarceration and providing evidence-based programs to reduce recidivism for those returning from incarceration. These activities require resources that current budgeting practices are unlikely to produce.
At a community event in Worcester last week, we heard how the WISER program, which cut recidivism in half, had been defunded and abandoned. Last spring, we saw successful reentry programs in Boston unravel due to lack of funding. This occurred just as the CSG review came out drawing attention to the dearth of evidenced-based programs in our corrections system.
Our research shows how declining correctional populations and growing budget appropriations have created a real opening to better fund these cost-effective programs, but instead of receiving more funding they get less.
So far nobody has proposed a solution. Neither the CSG bill filed by Governor Baker nor the Senate legislation up for debate this week addresses the problem.
This should not be a heavy lift. For an example of how it can be done, look at Louisiana’s Justice Reinvestment legislation. The package passed earlier this year requires an annual analysis of savings generated by the reform measures; 70 percent of the demonstrated savings must go to reinvestment activities (with 20 percent specifically devoted to grants for community-based organizations).
When the Senate debates criminal justice reform this week, it will be interesting to see whether an amendment with a reinvestment provision reaches the floor. A rollcall vote would tell us whether legislators are willing to commit the state to responsibly reallocating public dollars to increase public safety.
Here in Massachusetts
House Democrats tap the former chief justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, Roderick Ireland, as an official advisor as they attempt to pass the major reform legislation.
Middlesex Sheriff Peter Koutoujian is the new president of the Massachusetts Sheriffs’ Association.
The Boston Bar Association releases a new report with criminal justice reform recommendations.
The FBI’s annual crime report shows violent crime down 3.3% in Massachusetts, marking the sixth consecutive year that the state has experienced a decline.
Chelsea wins a $1 million DOJ grant to improve public safety through the Chelsea Thrives initiative.
Greg Torres says Senate criminal justice reform legislation is a praiseworthy effort to stem the rising tide of economic inequality in Massachusetts.
Louisiana is set to release thousands of nonviolent offenders as part of its bipartisan Justice Reinvestment bill. The Southern Poverty Law Center says there’s more work to do.
California Gov. Jerry Brown signs legislation that rolls back strict drug and juvenile sentencing guidelines and aims to reduce recidivism rates.
Missouri forms a CSG task force to investigate criminal justice reform.
In Alaska, there’s talk of rolling back recent reforms because of an uptick in crime, even when evidence suggests there’s no direct connection.
Pressure from top law enforcement leaders for President Trump and his administration to more seriously consider criminal justice reform is mounting.
Despite AG Session’s “tough-on-crime” approach to criminal justice reform, major bipartisan reform bills are still being introduced in Congress.
Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner host a bipartisan group of Senators to discuss criminal justice reform legislation.
The NFL formally endorses the Grassley-Durbin criminal justice reform bill.
From the Media
Boston Globe coverage of criminal justice reform legislation digs deeper on solitary confinement. WBUR interviews a man who spent five years in solitary and the man who put him there. The director of the Colorado Dept. of Corrections writes about why they ended the practice in the New York Times.
The Nation looks at how prosecutors have banded together to stop criminal justice reform.
In a Boston Herald op-ed, former Republican Party chair Jennifer Nassour says criminal justice reform is a GOP opportunity.
Wired says the FCC should continue to fight for reform for inmate phone services.
From the Researchers
John Jay explores strategies to provide those returning from incarceration with stable housing. The Vera Institute of Justice makes the case for developing reentry programs for ex-prisoners using public housing authorities.
New research by the Justice Department shows a strong decline in incarcerated youth, but a growing racial divide.
The Campaign for Youth Justice looks at efforts around the country to keep youth out of adult courts.
The Sentencing Project investigates why Latino youth are so much more likely to be detained or incarcerated than their white peers.
Harvard Law School’s Criminal Justice Policy Program pairs with Human Rights Watch to submit testimony to the UN detailing the criminalization of poverty.
John Jay College hosts the Smart on Crime conference (check out video from the event). BU holds a conference on misdemeanor justice, November 3 and 4.