March 11, 2010

Senate Judiciary Committee Approves Bill to Manage Costs and Reduce Prison Population Growth

Washington, D.C. – United States Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), John Cornyn (R-TX), and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) today applauded the Senate Judiciary Committee’s bipartisan vote to approve the Criminal Justice Reinvestment Act of 2010, a bill 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. Senators Whitehouse, Cornyn, and Leahy introduced the legislation in November 2009.

“At at time when state budgets are strained, these efforts will not only help save money, but make our towns safer,” Senator Whitehouse said. “This bill will allow state and local jurisdictions to use smart data analysis to take a good, hard look at the factors contributing to the rising costs of incarceration and the expansion of inmate populations.”

“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.

“We have an obligation to help states cope with overburdened criminal justice systems and rising recidivism rates,” said Leahy. “By helping states implement data-driven strategies to more effectively manage their correctional systems and to reinvest the saving in programs to reduce crime, the bill serves the dual purpose of cutting costs and improving public safety. My home state of Vermont has benefited from this sound approach and I am pleased that the Committee reported this important legislation today.”

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 this year amid budget shortfalls.

The Criminal Justice Reinvestment Act 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. Model programs in Rhode Island and Texas have already shown that this type of analysis can dramatically reduce unnecessary spending.

Congressmen Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Dan Lungren (R-CA) have introduced companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.


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