After 15 years of unprecedented prison growth in America, policymakers in 18 states took steps during 2007 to review the effectiveness of their criminal justice systems or institute reforms to limit recidivism and sentence lengths, according to a report by the Sentencing Project. The group cited the high cost of imprisonment for the reconsideration. “The financial burden facing public officials has led to fresh ideas and new approaches in criminal justice,” said Ryan S. King, policy analyst at the Sentencing Project and author of the report.
The report said nine states created oversight committees to examine sentencing laws, prison overcrowding and related themes; seven states amended parole policies and enhanced reentry preparation; four eased policies that treat juveniles as adults; three relaxed sexual offense laws related to consensual acts by teenagers, and two states reformed mandatory sentencing enhancements. Nevada and California implemented some of the most significant criminal justice reforms. The Sentencing Project called for additional reforms, including the repeal of mandatory minimum sentences; implementation of policies to reduce parole revocations to prison, and expansion of alternatives to prison sentences.