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Recalibrating Justice: A Review of 2013 State Sentencing and Corrections Trends

NCJ Number
Ram Subramanian; Rebecka Moreno; Sharyn Broomhead
Date Published
July 2014
48 pages
This study reviews State laws enacted in 2013 that pertain to sentencing and corrections policies.
Thirty-five States passed approximately 85 bills that changed some aspect of how their criminal justice systems address sentencing and corrections. Policy changes have focused on reducing prison population and costs; expanding or strengthening community-based corrections; implementing risk and needs assessment; supporting offender reentry into the community; and improving criminal justice policy through data-driven research and analysis. This report summarizes legislation in each of these areas, so as to guide policymakers in other States and the Federal Government in making similar changes in criminal justice policy. In efforts to reduce prison populations and costs, States repealed or narrowed mandatory sentencing schemes, reclassified offenses, or altered sentencing presumptions. Access to early-release mechanisms was also expanded. Legislation that expands or strengthens community-based sanctions widened eligibility for diversion programs and increased community-based sentencing options, including the use of problem-solving courts. Legislation that addressed the implementation of risk and needs assessments included mandates to conduct such assessments at various points in case processing, so as to tailor supervision and treatment programming to an offender's risk to public safety and the needs underlying the criminal behavior. Regarding the reentry of offenders into the community, States passed laws designed to mitigate the collateral consequences of criminal convictions, such as restriction on social benefits and exclusion from some types of employment. Legislation also mandated more in-prison support prior to release that will facilitate positive integration into the community. Legislation intended to improve criminal justice policymaking included the mandating of fiscal or social impact statements that will assist legislators in their consideration of the ramifications of proposed criminal justice reforms. 2 tables and 54 notes