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Governors highlight the need, benefits of Justice Reinvestment

| August 12, 2013

Under the burden of growing corrections budgets, state executives and legislators have sought a different strategy for providing public safety and rehabilitating offenders prior to release. Justice reinvestment, a movement gaining support in several states, prioritizes cost-efficient sentencing policy and effective correctional programming.

The Pew Charitable Trusts’ Public Safety Performance Project has recently interviewed the governors of four states implementing justice reinvestment initiatives. In the interview, the governors addressed the context that brought the issue to the forefront, how they navigated practical and political obstacles, and how they involved a diverse group of stakeholders in the process.

The governors all highlighted the importance of risk assessment and sentencing offenders to the appropriate sanction. Governor Dennis Daugaard of South Dakota said, “…a huge percentage of our newly incarcerated prisoners were not violent, but were nonviolent property crime or drug and alcohol offenders. Basically, these weren’t people we were afraid of; these were people were mad at. So we asked, ‘Is there a way other than incarceration to hold them accountable?’”

The governors also pushed for others to adopt their own justice reinvestment initiatives. Added Governor Nathan Deal of Georgia, “Do it, and do it as soon as possible, because if you don’t tackle the problem as quickly as you can, then it will continue to get bigger and bigger. And more people will be ensnared in the trap of incarceration that we know, in and of itself, doesn’t necessarily change the course of conduct in the future.”

The report on the interview is available here at Pew’s Public Safety Performance Project website.


DEREK M. COHEN is Director of Right on Crime and the Center for Effective Justice at the Texas Public Policy Foundation. Cohen graduated with a B.S. in Criminal Justice from Bowling Green State University. He went on to complete an M.S. degree in Criminal Justice from the University of Cincinnati, where he also recently completed his Ph.D. dissertation on the long-term costs and outcomes associated with correctional programming. His academic work can be found in Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies & Management and the forthcoming Encyclopedia of Theoretical Criminology and The Oxford Handbook on Police and Policing, and has scholarly articles currently under review. He has presented several papers to the American Society of Criminology, the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences, and the American Evaluation Association on the implementation and outcomes of various criminal justice policy issues. Prior to joining the Foundation, Cohen was a research associate with University of Cincinnati’s Institute of Crime Science. He also taught classes in statistics, research methods, criminal procedure, and corrections.