Promising Beginnings: Bipartisan Criminal Justice Reform in Key States

Document Date: February 3, 2012

The current economic crisis has put the spotlight on the exorbitant costs of our penal system, which has devastated some communities and absorbed billions of taxpayer dollars without producing a proportional decrease in crime rates. The convergence of societal and budgetary impacts of over-incarceration has carved out a window of opportunity for substantive reforms which prioritize efficiency and fairness over partisan politics. At both a national and state level, efforts are being made to address our incarceration crisis and enhance fairness in the system through initiatives such as revising outdated and ineffective sanctions, increasing the use of diversion programs and strengthening supports for safe, positive reintegration. The following report highlights key reforms from a diverse group of states that have all succeeded in cultivating bipartisan support for reform measures that are not only cost-effective, but are actually improving public safety through new programmatic initiatives and smarter sentencing guidelines. We seek to highlight these efforts as promising beginnings, underscoring the fact that these examples mark the first steps on the road to reform, and not the completion of a journey.

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