Community-Based Resources Improve Public Safety

Contact: Jennifer Laudano, 202-540-6321


Washington , DC - 08/13/2013 - In an Aug. 12 speech before the American Bar Association, Attorney General Eric Holder addressed federal policy changes aimed at curbing taxpayer spending on prisons and reducing incarceration.

At the state level, policymakers have enacted comprehensive sentencing and corrections reforms during the past three years that are estimated to avert more than $4 billion in prison costs over the next several years.

"In recent years, no fewer than 17 states—supported by the department, and led by governors and legislators of both parties—have directed funding away from prison construction and toward evidence-based programs and services, like treatment and supervision, that are designed to reduce recidivism," Holder told the audience, adding that "reinvestment and serious reform are improving public safety and saving precious resources." 

Several of these states, including Arkansas, Georgia, Hawaii, Kentucky, South Carolina, and South Dakota, have been working with Pew's public safety performance project to lead the way in corrections reform. These states have enacted sentencing and corrections policies to protect public safety, hold offenders accountable, and control corrections costs.

In a recent Q&A with Pew, governors from four states discussed the challenges they overcame to achieve consensus and enact policies that provide a better public safety return on state corrections dollars. Listen to governors talk about their states' corrections and sentencing reforms.

Although cost savings are an important factor in state policy deliberations, more significant motivators are: the success of states such as Texas in reducing both prison growth and crime; strong public support from voters, crime victim representatives, and leading conservatives; and, most fundamentally, growing awareness of alternatives that cost less than prison and that have been shown by research to be more effective at reducing recidivism.

Additional resources:

Visit the Public Safety Performance Project, to view a chart of the "Projected State Savings and Averted Costs From Prison Reforms."

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