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Criminal Justice System Reforms Advance in MO, OK, and WV

Three states considering sentencing and system reform to save their states millions while creating more effective criminal justice policies have advanced legislation to that end, and one group—the Council of State Governments’ Justice Center—is common to each effort.

The Justice Center had previously aided Texas’ criminal justice reform efforts, along with the Center for Effective Justice (which created Right on Crime). The resulting billion-dollar savings, as a result of avoided prison bed construction due to more efficient substance abuse policies, has spurred similar efforts in other states.

In Missouri, legislation is advancing that is the result of the Justice Center’s advice and research. Those bills, which involve swift and sure sanctions as in West Virginia and shock probation, debuted to strong bipartisan support in that state.

In Oklahoma, legislators in the House approved a bill which would provide supervision for ex-inmates, good-time credits for those felons which have served 85 percent of their sentence and who are approved by corrections officials, and emphasizes testing for drug abuse and mental health issues in defendants, legislation introduced after Justice Center research in that state.

In West Virginia, legislators approved increasing drug treatment programming, swift and sure parole and probation sanctions (which have proven to be more effective than standard revocations to incarceration). That bill now moves on for consideration by the full House; as Right on Crime previously noted, this legislation may only be the first step in a series of reform efforts, as the Governor recently invited the Council of State Governments’ Justice Center to advise the state on reform.

Research-based legislative efforts to make criminal justice systems more effective and efficient with taxpayer dollars are quickly becoming the trend across the United States, and West Virginia seeks to benefit from this body of knowledge as well.

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