November 16, 2009

Legislation Introduced in Senate and House to Better Manage Prison Population Growth

Criminal Justice Reinvestment Act Would Help Localities Conduct Studies to Control Costs

Washington, D.C. – United States Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), John Cornyn (R-TX), and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) introduced today the Criminal Justice Reinvestment Act of 2009 to help states and localities better understand how to manage the growth in prison and jail populations and increase public safety. The legislation would authorize grants to analyze criminal justice trends and to design and implement policies to better manage prison spending. Congressmen Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Dan Lungren (R-CA) also introduced companion legislation today in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“This bill will help state and local governments spend their limited corrections budgets in a more targeted, rational way to both manage inmate population growth and protect public safety,” Senator Whitehouse said.

“The Criminal Justice Reinvestment Act will help states find the best ways help better manage prison spending. The experience of states like Texas with this type of program has been uniformly positive and should be replicated,” said Senator Cornyn.

“In recent years, federal and state governments have passed many new criminal laws creating more and longer sentences for more and more crimes,” said Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “While it is important to ensure that serious crimes result in significant sentences, we must work to make our criminal justice system as effective and efficient as possible. We have an obligation to help states cope with overburdened criminal justice systems and rising recidivism rates. The Criminal Justice Reinvestment Act will help jurisdictions to deal with the increased costs facing our correctional systems across the country, while also improving public safety and reducing recidivism.”

“In California, we are all too aware of the costs of failing to end the revolving door in and out of prison,” said Congressman Schiff. “If we don’t do a better job reducing the rate of return to custody, we will have little or no money to invest in education, health care and other critical priorities. The Criminal Justice Reinvestment Act will employ proven strategies that drive down costs as they drive down recidivism, and thereby improve safety in our cities and neighborhoods.”

Over 2,200,000 American adults are incarcerated in state and local prisons and jails; the prison population alone nearly tripled between 1987 and 2007, from 585,000 to almost 1,600,000 inmates. States, in turn, have increased spending on corrections by $40 billion in the past 20 years. Despite the continued growth of the inmate population, about half the states plan to cut corrections budgets for FY2010 amid budget shortfalls.

The Criminal Justice Reinvestment Act of 2009 would create a two-part grant program for governments to analyze criminal justice trends, develop policy options to address growth in the corrections system, and implement and measure the impact of the policy changes. Through Phase 1 grants, government entities will be able to conduct a comprehensive analysis of corrections data, evaluate the cost-effectiveness of state and local spending on corrections, and develop policy options suggested by the analysis. Phase 2 grants will provide funds to help government entities implement those policy options and to measure their effectiveness. Model programs in Rhode Island and Texas have already shown that this type of analysis can dramatically reduce unnecessary spending.


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