50-State Report Offers ‘Playbook’ on Meeting Public Safety Challenges

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Photo by Mike Mozart via Flickr

The Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center has issued what it calls a first-of-its-kind, web-based resource combining data analyses, case studies and recommended strategies for all 50 states to help policymakers address public safety challenges.

The “50-State Report on Public Safety” includes more than 300 “data visualizations” comparing crime, recidivism and correctional practices across all 50 states.

The report discusses these data along with research on strategies aimed at improving public safety, giving more than 100 examples of public safety innovations drawn from every state.

The center says the report “provides a playbook that policymakers can customize to tackle the issues most relevant to their communities.”

Megan Quattlebaum, director of the center said that, “Data and research are essential to successfully addressing the unique conditions in each state.”

The report was promised at a 50-state summit held in Washington, D.C., last fall, at which officials were given preliminary data compilations from their states. (See coverage in The Crime Report). The summit was sponsored by the CSG and the Association of State Correctional Administrators.

Following up on the summit, the CSG Justice Center is working with more than 15 states to hold statewide forums on public safety with a broad coalition of stakeholders.

“There is no shortage of information to examine and consider when it comes to public safety,” Bryan Collier, Executive Director of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, told the center. “

As the head of a state corrections agency, digesting all of the available data can be overwhelming. The 50-State Report on Public Safety organizes a wealth of criminal justice information in one place, creating an important resource that is without equal in its size and scope.”

Among the report’s major points:

  • Between 2006 and 2016, violent crime rates decreased in 32 states. Violent crime increased in rural areas in 16 states.
  • The number of drug overdose deaths is almost four times higher than the number of homicides. Two decades ago, the numbers were about the same.
  • In 2015, states spend nearly 10 times as much on prisons as on community supervision of offenders, although there were 4.5 million people on probation and parole and 1.5 million in state prisons.
  • Most states track recidivism of people leaving prison. Thirty-two states use a narrow definition of the term that includes only people who are reincarcerated, not all rearrests and reconvictions.
  • Corrections populations increased in the last decade in 42 states, and 24 states project growth in prison populations.

According to a press release from the center, Alabama state Sen. Cam Ward praised the report, saying that it “gives policymakers a blueprint for achieving results, and the strategies offered here will be useful for years to come.”

Funding for the 50-State Report on Public Safety was provided by the U.S. Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Assistance.

Ted Gest is president of Criminal Justice Journalists and Washington bureau chief of The Crime Report.

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