Last month, the National Conference of State Legislatures released a report from its Sentencing and Corrections Work Group titled “Principles of Effective State Sentencing and Corrections Policy.”

For the past year, the work group has sought to identify the principles integral to effective criminal justice, especially in light of the difficult budget climate that states now face. One of the co-chairs of the work group, Texas state Representative Jerry Madden, has been a leader in reforming criminal justice in Texas, and he brought that wealth of experience to the group and the report.

The report highlights, among several important propositions, the necessity of proportionality in sentencing. It is essential that, along with considerations of the victim’s restoration and the community’s safety, sentences are commensurate with crimes. Without this guiding principle, the work group cautions, prison population growth would be unsustainable and would fail to represent a positive return on the state’s investment. Furthermore, the report discusses the need for alternatives to incarceration, which assures treatment is tailored to the crime and the criminal, and result in cost savings.

The report comes at a critical time in America’s long struggle with criminal justice reform. As we’ve discussed here at Right on Crime, several states are currently considering reform, and many more will need to follow suit when confronted with the inescapable success of efficient, cost-effective reform measures. Legislators and stakeholders alike should read and consider the proposals in NCSL’s report carefully—they may hold the key to each state’s effective justice reform.