U.S. Prison Agency Wasted $1.7M in Construction, IG Says

The U.S. Bureau of Prisons spent more than $1.7 million to construct an entry building at the Danbury federal prison in Connecticut that was no longer necessary, the U.S. Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General says. The watchdog unit said the spending was part of a $28 million contract to Sealaska Constructors LLC for construction at Danbury.

The U.S. Bureau of Prisons (BOP), spent more than $1.7 million to construct an entry building at the Danbury federal prison in Connecticut that was no longer necessary, the U.S. Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General reports. The Justice Department watchdog said the spending was part of a $28 million contract to Sealaska Constructors LLC for construction at Danbury.

The inspector general said the misspending resulted from “weaknesses in… project planning.” It said the prison agency “had not anticipated significant problems with its plan to convert … Danbury’s existing federal prison camp to a facility with a higher security level.”

By the time BOP identified the problems and implemented an alternative plan, the money had been wasted, the inspector general said. “In our judgment, the unnecessary construction of the entry building, as well as the delay in adding the Programs Building could have been avoided or minimized with better BOP planning, coordination, and communication,” the report said.

The watchdog made eight recommendations for BOP to improve its contract administration.

This summary was prepared by Ted Gest, TCR Washington Bureau Chief

 

from https://thecrimereport.org

Murder Rates Dropping in 2018: A Preliminary Analysis

The NYU’s Brennan Center calculates that murder rates in America’s 29 largest cities will drop by 7.6 percent over the previous year; falling off to levels approximately equal to 2015 rates. Notably, the report projects a 35 percent decline in homicides in San Francisco, 23.2 percent in Chicago, and 20.9 percent in Baltimore.

A new report issued by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University projects an overall decline in crime in big cities in 2018, with a larger drop-off in homicides, particularly in cities where violent crime has spiked in recent years.

Authors of the report calculate that murder rates in America’s 29 largest cities will drop by 7.6 percent over the previous year; falling off to levels approximately equal to 2015 rates.

Notably, the report projects a 35 percent decline in homicides in San Francisco, 23.2 percent in Chicago, and 20.9 percent in Baltimore. If projections hold, this would mean a hard reverse in Baltimore’s murder trend, dropping to levels not seen since 2014.

“These findings directly undercut claims that American cities are experiencing a crime wave. Instead, they suggest that increases in the murder rate in 2015 and 2016 were temporary, rather than signaling a reversal in the long-term downward trend,” wrote the authors.

Despite an overall downward trend, the news isn’t good for a few other cities: in particular, researchers calculate a 34.9 percent increase in Washington, D.C.’s murder rates over last year, and a 29.9 percent increase in Austin.

To estimate year-end crime and murder rates, researchers used raw data from individual police departments, interpreting incident-level data to be consistent with each city’s Uniform Crime Report data to the FBI for previous years. Nineteen cities provided complete data on crimes that occurred this year, and 29 cities contributed murder data.

To estimate year-end crime data, researchers used raw data from 19 cities on crimes that have occurred this year, interpreting incident-level data to be consistent with each cities’ UCR reports for previous years. The remaining 11 cities could not provide raw data for 2018. For rate calculations, the authors projected city population assuming the average rate of population growth for the past three years remained constant through 2018.

Overall, authors project a 2.9 percent decrease in crime rates, “essentially holding stable,” they wrote. “If this estimate holds, this group of cities will experience the lowest crime rate this year since at least 1990.”

Year-end data for 2017 issued by the FBI Uniform Crime Report is forthcoming.

Crime and Murder 2018: A Preliminary Analysis was published by the Brennan Center of Justice at the NYU School of Law. The report, authored by Ames C. Grawert, Adureh Onyekwere, and Cameron Kimble, can be found online here. This summary was prepared by TCR’s Deputy Editor-Investigations Victoria Mckenzie

from https://thecrimereport.org

BOP Failing to Address Needs of Female Inmates, Says DOJ Watchdog

A report released by the Justice Department cites the Bureau of Prisons for not adequately addressing the needs of female inmates when it comes to trauma treatment, pregnancy programming, and hygiene; noting that oversight of policies, including those regarding strip searches, are conducted remotely– with no on-site visits to ensure compliance.

A report released by the Justice Department cites the U.S. Bureau of Prisons (BOP) for not adequately addressing the needs of female inmates when it comes to trauma treatment, pregnancy programming, and hygiene. It says oversight of policies, including those regarding strip searches, are conducted remotely– with no onsite visits to ensure compliance.

The DOJ Office of Inspector General review, sparked by concerns from members of Congress and special interest groups, examined the BOP’s management of female inmates between 2012 and 2016–  and criticized the agency for only recently beginning to take steps to formalize oversight and compliance of a Female Offender Manual published in 2016. As of June, these efforts were still not fully implemented, according to the report; currently, any program reviews the agency does conduct are held entirely offsite.

The new manual served an update to the policy first created in 1997 on management of female inmates, and incorporated specific “gender-responsive language on how BOP should classify and designate female inmates; discipline female inmates; provide gender-responsive programming; and address birth control, pregnancy, child placement, and abortion. ”

Much of the 2016 manual focused on mandatory training for all staff in trauma-informed correctional care; however, the BOP did not require the same training for executives responsible for policy and decision-making, according to the report.

Research shows at least 90 percent of women and girls behind bars have experienced trauma prior to incarceration; the most prevalent kind being repeated sexual violence, followed by domestic violence, according to the report.

The Resolve program, offered at 14 of BOP’s 15 female institutions, provides targeted care for those with trauma-induced mental illness. The IG interviewed several participates who said it had been helpful in dealing with past events, and preparing for release.

But the program is understaffed to the extent that it only serves 3 percent of the female inmate population, according to the report; six institutions have intake waiting lists of over 150 women. Additionally, the program is only available in English. According to a warden and a chief psychologist at two institutions, the need for Spanish-language programming is dire. “There’s horrific history, but we just can’t get to them,” said the psychologist.

As of 2016, women made up 7 percent of incarcerated adults; the majority are held in either low or minimum security facilities. Management of these inmates falls under the Women and Special Populations Branch, which oversees numerous special populations.

The report also found the pregnancy program to be underutilized, in part due to social worker vacancies, and because staff weren’t aware of the eligibility criteria for the program. BOP institution staff were also unaware of Washington State’s Residential Parenting Program; and as a result, only 6 inmates participated between 2012 and 2016.

As a result of its findings, the IG made a list of ten recommendations to ensure that BOP practices are in line with policies adopted two years ago:

  1. Fully implement ongoing plans to create a permanent program review for the Female Offender Manual that includes in-person visits and an institution-specific rating.
  2. Determine the appropriate level of staffing that should be allocated to the Women and Special Populations Branch based on an analysis of its broad mission and responsibilities.
  3. Ensure that all officials who enter into National Executive Staff positions have taken appropriate, current training specific to the unique needs of female inmates and trauma-informed correctional care.
  4. Identify ways to expand the staffing of the Resolve program.
  5. Improve the communication of its pregnancy program availability and eligibility criteria to relevant staff and pregnant inmates to ensure consistent understanding across BOP institutions.
  6. Improve data tracking to allow it to more easily identify inmates who are aware of, interested in, eligible for, or participating in pregnancy programs, as well as to assess barriers to participation.
  7. Clarify guidance on the distribution of feminine hygiene products to ensure sufficient access to the amount of products inmates need free of charge.
  8. Improve the availability of female staff at locations in female institutions where inmate searches are common, through the establishment of genderspecific posts or other methods.
  9. Establish policy that determines how long sentenced inmates can be confined in a detention center, or ensures that the conditions of confinement and inmate programming at a detention center more closely approximate those of a non-detention center when sentenced inmates are housed there.
  10. Explore options to procure female Special Housing Unit space closer to Federal Correctional Institution Danbury.

The full report, Review of the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ Management of Its Female Inmate Population, can be viewed here.

 

from https://thecrimereport.org

Residential Facilities for Incarcerated Youth Have Decreased: Study

A new study released by Pew Public Safety Performance Project found that the number of residential facilities holding youth in custody within the juvenile justice system fell 42 percent nationwide between 2000 and 2016—largely because fewer juveniles have been arrested.

The number of residential facilities holding incarcerated youth has significantly decreased– largely because fewer juveniles are being arrested–according to newly released data from the Juvenile Residential Facility Census Databook.

The databook found that the number of residential facilities holding youth in custody within the juvenile justice system fell 42 percent nationwide between 2000 and 2016.

“The decline comes in large part because of the significant reduction in the number of youth in custody,” wrote Dana Shoenberg, senior manager of the Public Safety Performance Project (PSPP) at the Pew Charitable Trusts, and Erinn Broadus, a criminal justice research associate, who reported on the data.

Between 2000 and 2016, the number in residential placement dropped 58 percent, according to figures compiled by the U.S. Census Bureau for the Justice Department’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

The Pew Charitable Trusts’ PSPP  described a growing body of research showing that the costly practice of confining juveniles is generally no more likely to reduce recidivism than is keeping them in their own homes for treatment and that confinement can actually increase the likelihood of certain youth re-offending.

However, evidence-based, in-home treatment options, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, have been shown to produce substantial reductions in recidivism, said authors.

The study also found that in recent years, some states have found ways to make more effective use of resources once dedicated to residential juvenile facilities.

For example, Kansas policymakers determined that group homes in that state had failed to improve outcomes for youth in their care and that those adjudicated delinquent for misdemeanors made up too large a share of out-of-home placements.

As a result, Kansas has closed one of its two remaining correctional facilities and more than 90 percent of its group home beds. That allowed the state to shift millions of dollars annually to community-based services for youth remaining at home.

In addition, falling crime rates and reductions in residential placement may have contributed to recent facility closures.

Those factors can also be catalysts for further change, increasing the resources available for reinvestment in a continuum of evidence-based supervision and services, Shoenberg and Broadus concluded.

“When carried out in ways that support youth, families, staff, and communities, closures can be an important component of state and local juvenile justice reform strategies.”

A full copy of the report can be found here. 

This summary was prepared by Megan Hadley, senior staff reporter for The Crime Report. Readers’ comments are welcome.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Despite NH Loss, Support Growing for Death Penalty Repeal

A majority of lawmakers in New Hampshire voted on Thursday in support of abolishing the death penalty, but fell two votes shy of overriding Governor Chris Sununu’s veto of a repeal bill. Despite the outcome, observers and abolitionists say support for the cause is at a new high in the state, and continues to gain traction around the country.

A majority of lawmakers in New Hampshire voted on Thursday in support of abolishing the death penalty, but fell two votes shy of overriding Governor Chris Sununu’s veto of a repeal bill. Despite the outcome, observers and abolitionists say support for the cause is at a new high in the state, and continues to gain traction around the country.

New Hampshire’s death penalty repeal bill passed through two Republican-controlled chambers; the state Senate voting 14-10 in support of repealing on Thursday, but 16 votes are required to override a gubernatorial veto.

“That shows real momentum and the bill will certainly be back next year,” said the National Manager of Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty. The state’s last execution was in 1939.

Thirty-one states still have death penalty laws still on the books, and 12 of those states have an official moratorium on executions. Earlier this year, CCADP told The Crime Report the group was hopeful about repeal efforts in New Hampshire, Washington State, and Utah. While none have yet succeeded, observers still note a trend favoring abolition.

While none of these bills passed this year, “what’s notable is that the efforts to repeal the death penalty have become increasingly bipartisan,” Robert Dunham, Executive Director of the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC) told The Crime Report.

“Since the efforts to abolish the death penalty are incremental, even the efforts that do not succeed in a given year are an indicator of what the long term trends are,” said Robert Dunham, Executive Director of the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC).

A Washington repeal bill, hailed as a way to reduce criminal justice expenses, gained more support this year than similar efforts in the past 5 years, passing the Senate in a strong bipartisan vote; but did not move for a House vote before the session ended. “The prospects for repeal in Washington state look favorable, but that may depend on the outcome of the November elections,” Dunham told The Crime Report.

This summer, abolitionists found a new ally in conservative commentator and author Michelle Malkin, who tweeted that “After having my eyes opened to systemic corruption of our criminal (in)justice system at the hands of bad detectives, incompetent PD crime labs & out-of-control prosecutors, I no longer support the death penalty.”

In August, Pope Francis spoke out unequivocally against the death penalty, declaring it to be wrong in all cases. “A number of the legislatures in which the votes are close have Catholic legislators who are on the fence about the death penalty or who had been supportive of it,” said Dunham. For those who are uncommitted, “This is something that can empower them to vote their conscience.”

“Even in red states not yet examining repeal, we have seen good momentum from leadership on this issue,” CCADP’s Hannah Cox told The Crime Report, noting Ohio Governor John Kasich’s recent grants of clemency to death row inmates William Montgomery and Raymond Tibbetts, and a death penalty study produced by Pennsylvania that calls for change.

“All of these developments show real progress and a growing consensus on the right that the death penalty is another wasteful government program that does not deter crime, risks innocent lives, and costs too much,” said Cox.

Victoria Mckenzie is Deputy Editor-Investigations of The Crime Report. Readers’ comments are welcome.

from https://thecrimereport.org

NYC Pays $280K Settlement for Rikers Anti-Gay Attack

According to a press release from the victim’s attorney, Thomas Hamm, a visitor to the Rikers Island facility, was beaten by two corrections officers hurling anti-gay slurs. Earlier this year, the Jail’s Action Committee released a report maintaining that conditions for visitors to Rikers “continue to be discouraging at best and traumatizing and violent at worst.”

The City of New York was ordered on Wednesday to compensate a visitor to Rikers Island who was beaten by two corrections officers hurling anti-gay slurs, according to a press release from the victim’s attorneys.

“For decades, the corruption and abuse at Rikers Island targeting incarcerated LGBT people—most of whom are black and brown—has gone unchecked. We are hopeful this resolution will make it harder for this kind of discrimination and brutality to continue,” said David B. Rankin, Beldock Levine & Hoffman LLP Partner and Lambda Legal’s Co-Counsel in the case.

Rikers

The Rikers Island jail complex in New York City . Photo by David Oppenheimer via Flickr

According to the federal lawsuit, Thomas Hamm was visiting his boyfriend at Rikers in 2014 when two corrections officers on duty ordered them to stop holding hands, while other visitors were embracing their loved ones, calling them “faggots” and saying “you’ll burn in hell” before abruptly ending the visit.

As Mr. Hamm was leaving, the two officers grabbed him, repeatedly punching and kicking him, the complaint alleges. He was taken to the hospital in an ambulance, where he was diagnosed with facial fractures and head trauma.

The lawsuit also contends that supervisors tried to cover up the beating by accusing Hamm of provoking the attack, and arresting him. The charges were later dismissed.

Earlier this year, the Jail’s Action Committee released a report maintaining that conditions for visitors to Rikers “continue to be discouraging at best and traumatizing and violent at worst”despite efforts from lawmakers and officials to address the longstanding history of brutality and corruption at the facility.

“Women and men have reported being forced to strip down to their underwear, show officers their genitals, suffer through inappropriate touching of their breasts and genitals, and undergo cavity searches—even though these searches are directly in violation of Department of Correction (DOC) policy,” said the study.

Rikers, the nation’s second-largest jail after the Los Angeles County facility, has been the center of heated controversy over conditions inside the complex and alleged “torture” of inmates by guards. A commission headed by former New York State Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman recommended closing Rikers, and in August Mayor Bill de Blasio announced plans to close the facility by 2027, replacing it with a “modern community-based jail system that is smaller, safer, and fairer.”

This summary was prepared by TCR Depuity Editor-Investigations Victoria Mckenzie.

from https://thecrimereport.org

NYC Pays $280K Settlement for Rikers Anti-Gay Attack

According to a press release from the victim’s attorney, Thomas Hamm, a visitor to the Rikers Island facility, was beaten by two corrections officers hurling anti-gay slurs. Earlier this year, the Jail’s Action Committee released a report maintaining that conditions for visitors to Rikers “continue to be discouraging at best and traumatizing and violent at worst.”

The City of New York was ordered on Wednesday to compensate a visitor to Rikers Island who was beaten by two corrections officers hurling anti-gay slurs, according to a press release from the victim’s attorneys.

“For decades, the corruption and abuse at Rikers Island targeting incarcerated LGBT people—most of whom are black and brown—has gone unchecked. We are hopeful this resolution will make it harder for this kind of discrimination and brutality to continue,” said David B. Rankin, Beldock Levine & Hoffman LLP Partner and Lambda Legal’s Co-Counsel in the case.

Rikers

The Rikers Island jail complex in New York City . Photo by David Oppenheimer via Flickr

According to the federal lawsuit, Thomas Hamm was visiting his boyfriend at Rikers in 2014 when two corrections officers on duty ordered them to stop holding hands, while other visitors were embracing their loved ones, calling them “faggots” and saying “you’ll burn in hell” before abruptly ending the visit.

As Mr. Hamm was leaving, the two officers grabbed him, repeatedly punching and kicking him, the complaint alleges. He was taken to the hospital in an ambulance, where he was diagnosed with facial fractures and head trauma.

The lawsuit also contends that supervisors tried to cover up the beating by accusing Hamm of provoking the attack, and arresting him. The charges were later dismissed.

Earlier this year, the Jail’s Action Committee released a report maintaining that conditions for visitors to Rikers “continue to be discouraging at best and traumatizing and violent at worst”despite efforts from lawmakers and officials to address the longstanding history of brutality and corruption at the facility.

“Women and men have reported being forced to strip down to their underwear, show officers their genitals, suffer through inappropriate touching of their breasts and genitals, and undergo cavity searches—even though these searches are directly in violation of Department of Correction (DOC) policy,” said the study.

Rikers, the nation’s second-largest jail after the Los Angeles County facility, has been the center of heated controversy over conditions inside the complex and alleged “torture” of inmates by guards. A commission headed by former New York State Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman recommended closing Rikers, and in August Mayor Bill de Blasio announced plans to close the facility by 2027, replacing it with a “modern community-based jail system that is smaller, safer, and fairer.”

This summary was prepared by TCR Depuity Editor-Investigations Victoria Mckenzie.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Does ‘Rape Culture’ in the Media Fuel a Permissive Climate for Sex Crimes?

Biased or unsympathetic press treatment of victims is a good predictor of a high incidence of rape, according to researchers who analyzed coverage of 310,000 cases between 2000 and 2013. It also influences police to make fewer arrests , they claimed.

Rape is more common in areas where “rape culture” persists in the media, according to a new study published in the Quarterly Journal of Political Science.

Matthew Baum and Dara Cohen of the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, and Yuri Zhukov of the University of Michigan analyzed coverage of 310,000 sex crime-related articles published in 279 newspapers from 2000 to 2013.

They specifically examined how often these outlets published stories about rape, and if the stories showed evidence of what they termed “rape culture”—language that include blaming the victim, showing empathy for perpetrators, implying consent, and questioning the victim’s credibility.

Drawing on law enforcement records, the researchers found that rape incidents are more prominent in areas where the local press fosters less sympathetic attitudes towards victims. They did not appear to examine broadcast or online media.

“Does rape culture predict rape? In a word, yes,” wrote the authors.

“We find that where there is more rape culture in the press, there is more rape. In areas with more prevalent rape culture in the press, police receive more frequent reports of rape, but make fewer arrests in response.”

Moreover, they added, law enforcement in those areas make fewer arrests—and offenders are more likely to offend, and victims are less likely to report because they believe police officers, too, hold rape culture ideologies and thus would be less likely to pursue arrests.

The study found the most egregious evidence of rape culture in in counties in Minnesota, North Carolina, California, Iowa..

The authors argue that evidence of rape culture in the local news is a reflection of the community’s negative perception of sexual assault victims, and the study confirms assertions that some social norms can deter or even enable sexual violence.

“Our research can potentially help journalists and editors uncover implicit biases in their work, allow policymakers to gauge police responsiveness, activists to devise methods to reduce or mitigate sexual crime, and scholars to systematically investigate the causes and consequences of rape,” the authors write.

The authors write that though rape culture is a contributing factor, it does not completely explain differences in the incidence of rape across counties. Furthermore, only about 3 percent of the news articles analyzed contain any of the four components of rape culture, with the most common component being victim-blaming.

“That rape culture correlates with increases in documented rape cases reveals little about the direction of the relationship,” the authors observed. “Journalists may simply be less sensitive where rape is more common, or some other, unobserved factor may drive both local news content and sexual violence.”

The researchers argued that the media’s passive or hostile attitude towards rape cases was also a consequence of their commercial interests.

“If local news coverage of rape systematically features victim-blaming language, empathy for the accused, implications of consent, and incredulity toward victims, we can reasonably interpret such content as a noisy indicator of attitudes that local news consumers and journalists find normatively acceptable and commercially viable,” they wrote.

But they also warned against “over-interpreting” their findings.

“Our empirical strategy shows that rape culture in the media is a reliable local predictor of sexual crime, but these estimates do not represent a causal effect,” they wrote.

A copy of the study can be purchased here.

J. Gabriel Ware is a TCR news intern. Readers’ comments are welcomed.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Hate Crimes Surge Globally, Yet Remain Under-Reported: Study

Despite claims by law enforcement that people who are most susceptible to hate crimes are “hard to reach” populations, a UK study finds that victims would report incidents to officers if they didn’t feel barriers were insurmountable.

Hate crimes—violence and micro-aggressions directed towards people based on their identity, “difference” or perceived vulnerability—are surging world-wide, even as many victims seem to prefer suffering in silence rather than report the offense, according to research published in the September issue of the British journal Criminology & Criminal Justice.

Neil Chakraborti, head of the Department of Criminology and director of the Centre for Hate Studies at the University of Leicester in the United Kingdom, analyzed data from more than 2,000 hate crime victims of all kinds throughout the world and found a confluence of factors that stops victims from reporting incidents.

Victims view reporting as a waste of time both for themselves and police because they believe officers don’t grasp the seriousness of hate crimes and are more with tackling different types of crimes. Victims’ previous negative experiences—or those shared by family members, friends and members of their own community— with police also can reinforce a lack of trust to report hate crime incidents, the paper said.

“As a result, most victims tended to normalize their experiences of repeat harassment and hostility as a routine feature of being ‘different,’ which in turn reinforced their sense of alienation,” Chakraborti wrote.

Furthermore, the lack of engagement from law enforcement and support organizations reinforce victims’ reluctance to report hate incidents. Despite law enforcement’s position that people who are most susceptible to hate crimes are “hard to reach” populations, the author finds that victims would report incidents to officers if they didn’t feel barriers were insurmountable.

Furthermore, Chakraborti argued that community engagement strategies commonly fail to involve those most affected by hate crime.

He called for immediate action to fix failing systems.

“Without urgent action, hate crime victims will continue to reject opportunities to report their experiences; will become increasingly detached from support structures; and will continue to have little faith in criminal justice responses,” Chakraborti warned in the article, which was first posted online late last year.

More than 14,000 hate crimes were recorded by police forces in England and Wales between July and September 2016. Similar spikes occurred in the United States, France, Denmark, Germany, Austria, Hungary and the Netherlands, and fewer than one in four hate crime victims report incidents to the police, according to author.

The author cites “trigger events” as possible initiators of hate crime and cites a Southern Law Poverty Law report indicating Donald Trump’s rise to the presidency as a trigger event for racial hate crimes in the United States.

According to Richard Rothstein, a Distinguished Fellow of the Economic Policy Institute and author of the book “The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America,” racial hate crimes can be curbed by dismantling systematic residential segregation.

“If people live so far distant from each other and have such different life experiences, they don’t understand each other, and that feeds racial intolerance,” Rothstein told The Crime Report in a recent interview.

A copy of Prof. Chakraborti’s study is available for purchase here.

This summary was prepared by TCR news intern J. Gabriel Ware. Readers’ comments are welcome.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Five States Prove that ‘Substantial’ Cuts in Prison Populations Are No Pipe Dream

It doesn’t matter if you’re red or blue. If you’re willing to adopt—and pay for—evidence-based reforms, you can match the achievements of Connecticut, Michigan, Mississippi, Rhode Island, and South Carolina over the past decade, according to The Sentencing Project.

Bipartisan collaboration and consistent funding of evidence-based reforms helped slash prison populations in five states with dramatically different demographics and political leanings, according to a study by The Sentencing Project.

The results, charted over roughly a decade in Connecticut, Michigan, Mississippi, Rhode Island, and South Carolina, should be a signal to the rest of the country that “substantial reductions” are possible without endangering public safety, the study authors said.

“We now have evidence that substantial reductions in prison populations are possible in red and blue states,” said Marc Mauer, executive director of The Sentencing Project, and one of the authors of the report.

The analysis found reductions ranging from 14 percent in South Carolina to 25 percent in Connecticut over a period starting about 2007 and ending in 2016.

The reductions “produced a cumulative total of 23,646 fewer people in prison with no adverse effects on public safety,” the report said.

That represented a sharp contrast to the national average over the same period. Although inmate populations have begun to decline, the study cited a recent analysis showing that at the current average nationwide rate of change from 2009 to 2016, it would take 75 years to reduce the country’s prison population by half—and while 42 states have experienced declines from their peak prison populations, 20 of these declines are less than 5 percent.

Moreover, eight states are still experiencing rising inmate populations.

The factors responsible for the declines were different in each of the five states, but the authors identified “key strategies and practices” that all of them shared.

They included:

  • High-profile leadership, bipartisanship, and collaboration among all components of the state justice system;
  • An ability to apply outside technical assistance and research findings to evidence-based reforms;
  • Strong community engagement to drive re-entry and community supervision programs;
  • Reductions in criminal penalties, and the expansion of specialty and alternative courts; and
  • Incorporation of  “dynamic risk and needs assessments” into the sentencing process.

The study made clear that none of these factors alone guaranteed long-term reductions, adding that a sustained effort to reduce the use of prison as primary punishment—often called “decarceration”—required consistent and adequate funding to pay for the reforms.

But the authors said their findings underscored the fact that by developing a “roadmap to decarceration“ attuned to the individual needs and policy preferences of each state, the nation could achieve far greater reductions in mass incarceration than were commonly assumed by most analysts.

All five states were engaged in the Justice Reinvestment Initiative process, spearheaded by the Pew Charitable Trusts and the Council on State Governments, which was designed to respond to the drivers of prison expansion in each state, and to develop strategies for changes in policies and practices.

“Policymakers around the country have much to learn from the population reduction successes of the five states documented in this report, as well as others that have achieved double-digit reductions in recent years,” the report said.

“(It) reinforces the finding that just as prison populations rose during the 1980s and 1990s due to policy choices, so too can they decline as policymakers adopt targeted goals and strategies.”

The other co-authors of the report were Dennis Schrantz, a corrections consultant and the former deputy director of the Michigan Department of Corrections; and Stephen T. DeBor, the senior policy executive in charge of research, planning and automated data systems for the Michigan Department of Corrections.

A complete copy of the study can be downloaded here.

from https://thecrimereport.org