As policymakers focus on high prison costs during an economic downturn, more states are seeking to learn about how they might save money by using the “justice reinvestment” concept, says Michael Thompson of the Council of State Governments Justice Center. The council is now working in 12 states, several of which have reported stabilizing prison populations, partly by offering better services to released inmates and forestalling their returns to custody.
The program is yet to have a scientific evaluation but so far, Kansas and Texas have been able to avoid large projected expansions of prison population and held down rates of probation and parole revocation, Thompson told the National Committee on Community Corrections in a meeting at the U.S. Justice Department. Thompson said the project, which is supported by the Pew Center on the States and the Justice Department, does not have an agenda of downsizing prisons but rather presents reform options to bipartisan groups of state policymakers. The center is hoping for more federal support via a bill recently introduced in Congress.