The Center for Health and Justice (CHJ) at TASC recently published a survey of criminal justice diversion programs that provide alternatives to criminal conviction at various stages of the justice system, from street-level law enforcement to court involvement. More than 100 diversion programs across the U.S were included in the survey. Key findings include that many programs focus on individuals with substance use and mental health issues and limit eligibility to individuals with first-time or low-level offenses. Authors also observe that, overall, diversionary programs lack standard definitions, language, and overarching standards for data collection, reporting, and evaluation. The report comes at a critical time, as criminal justice policy and practice reform efforts seek ways to keep communities safe, hold people accountable for their behavior, and spend public dollars wisely. Click here to read the full report.
The John Howard Association (JHA) recently released a report from their monitoring visit to Menard Correctional Center. Menard operates a maximum security male facility, medium security unit, and a Reception and Classification center. Menard is the largest maximum security facility in the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) and currently houses 3,769 individuals. JHA’s key observations include Menard’s success at implementing incentives while reducing the use of lockdown, the improvement of individuals’ access to the law library and grievance system, the need for continued increase of facility transparency and accountability, and the heightened public interest in Menard due to media coverage of a hunger strike by individuals detained in an increased segregation unit. The report recommends that program expansions continue to receive support, including quality of life improvements, prison hospice, and assisted living programs. Click here to access the full report.
Report: From Courts to Communities, the Right Response to Truancy, Running Away, and Other Status Offenses
Report: Stemming the Tide, Strategies to Reduce the Growth and Cut the Cost of the Federal Prison System
A research report from the Urban Institute set out to examine potential strategies to reduce the federal prison population in response to the rapid growth of those incarcerated and the dangerous overpopulation that characterize the U.S. prison system. The report reviewed several options for reform, including modification of federal drug prosecution and sentencing, giving judges more sentencing discretion, lowering of truth-in-sentencing requirements, application of the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 to past cases, extension of earned and good time credits, and responsible release of more elderly and terminally ill inmates. The authors recommended a mix of reforms to sentencing, prosecution, and release policies in order to have a meaningful impact on the federal prison population and costs. Click here to read the full report.
The Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Act of 2013 (JMHCA) has been introduced in both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. This bill reauthorizes and improves the Mentally Ill Offender Treatment and Crime Reduction Act of 2004 by supporting the collaboration of criminal justice and mental health agencies to improve the mental health and public safety outcomes of individuals, families, and communities. The JMHCA supports the extension of mental health courts, development of law enforcement training, and other collaborative approaches between criminal justice and mental health agencies to treat people with mental illnesses who are in contact with the justice system. Those interested in urging members of Congress to support the JMHCA can click here.