Raleigh, NC -
04/21/2010 - The office of Gov. Bev Perdue, D-North Carolina, issued the following press release:
Gov. Bev Perdue, Chief Justice Sarah Parker and state House and Senate leaders announced today a bipartisan effort across state government to develop a data-driven approach to public safety that will reduce spending on corrections and reinvest the savings in ways that prevent recidivism and hold offenders accountable for their actions.
State leaders announced their partnership with the Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center, the Pew Center on the States, and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), to analyze North Carolina’s criminal justice system using a “justice reinvestment” approach. State leaders worked together to secure this public-private assistance and financial support.
“By using a data-driven approach, we will get the information we need to ensure that every taxpayer dollar spent on corrections and other public safety measures has the greatest impact on crime,” said Gov. Perdue. “It will also allow us to reinvest savings to reduce recidivism, in turn, reducing the additional prisons that may be needed over the next ten years.”
Between 2000 and 2008, the state’s prison population increased by 25 percent from 31,581 to 39,326 inmates. During that same eight years, the Department of Correction budget increased from $918 million to more than $1.31 billion. The North Carolina Sentencing and Policy Advisory Commission projects that if existing policies remain unchanged, the prison population will increase by another 25 percent between 2009 and 2019 and the state will need an additional 8,500 prison beds.
"Our courts across the state are impacted by recidivism every day as individuals return to court charged with new crimes,” said Chief Justice Sarah Parker. “Regrettably, many of these repeat offenders are young adults. Hopefully, this initiative will help in reducing the criminal case loads in our courts and result in savings in terms of both dollars and human potential."
“As a state, we must do more to stop the cycle of people returning to prison. I am supportive of this effort to help people lead more productive lives and stay out of our criminal justice system for good,"said Senate President Pro Tempore Marc Basnight.
To guide the work of the project, the state has established a Justice Reinvestment Work Group composed of state agency heads, legislative leaders from both political parties and top court officials. Perspectives and recommendations from groups directly and indirectly involved in the criminal justice system, including judges, district attorneys, public defenders, law enforcement officials, advocates for crime victims and survivors, and community treatment providers will also be solicited.
“This bipartisan initiative brings together various agencies and stakeholders that might not otherwise collaborate extensively,” Speaker Joe Hackney said. “All of us are committed to developing stronger corrections policies that will reduce costs to taxpayers while also protecting the public.”
“Ever since hearing how other states have used a justice reinvestment approach to make their criminal justice system more cost-effective, I’ve been eager to see North Carolina pursue a similar approach,” said Rep. Alice Bordsen, co-chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Justice and Public Safety.
“The data analysis that is being conducted for this initiative will reveal who is making up the corrections population, including the numbers of people identified as having mental health and substance abuse issues,” said Senate Minority Leader Phil Berger. “This assessment will help us in deciding how best to spend public safety dollars.”
“I’m eager to review the data so we can develop sound policies that control correction spending, while improving the safety of North Carolina communities,” said House Minority Leader Paul Stam.
“BJA is pleased to provide assistance to state officials in North Carolina who have demonstrated a bipartisan interest in using a justice reinvestment approach,” said Andrew Molloy, BJA Associate Deputy Director for Justice Systems.
In 10 other states, the CSG Justice Center has partnered with Pew and BJA to help policymakers analyze data and develop legislative packages that have generated hundreds of millions of dollars in savings that have then been reinvested in strategies to increase public safety and reduce recidivism.
“I learned about the successes with justice reinvestment in other states as a board member of the CSG Justice Center,” said Mecklenburg County District Attorney Peter Gilchrist. “I’m pleased prosecutors will be involved in the process of identifying options for the state of North Carolina to address crime in a smarter way.”
"We have high expectations that our partnership will produce a significantly greater public safety return on North Carolina's correctional dollars," said Adam Gelb, director of Pew's Public Safety Performance Project. "Fifteen years ago, North Carolina put in place a model system that increased prison terms for violent and career criminals and established a partnership with counties to supervise low-risk offenders in the community. Now there is a strong commitment from top state officials to build on that national leadership."
The Council of State Governments Justice Center is a national nonprofit organization that serves policymakers at the local, state, and federal levels from all branches of government. It provides practical, nonpartisan advice and consensus-driven strategies— informed by available evidence—to increase public safety and strengthen communities. To learn more about the justice reinvestment strategy in North Carolina and other states, please visit www.justicereinvestment.org.