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State Group Offers Justice Snapshots, Crime Reduction Advice

Criminal justice trends vary by state, and decision-makers need up-to-date, state-specific data to navigate today’s challenges. 

The Council of State Governments Justice Center has created snapshots of the most recent data for each state on crime, arrests, behavioral health, workforce, recidivism, and other subjects.

The project is part of the Justice Reinvestment Initiative, funded by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs’ Bureau of Justice Assistance with support from The Pew Charitable Trusts and Arnold Ventures that and uses experts from the Justice Center and the Crime and Justice Institute to provide technical assistance to state partners interested in using data to analyze and improve their justice systems. 

As one of many examples in the collection, CSG reported that in 2021, state and local governments in Pennsylvania spent $3,780,327,000 on corrections. This was 2.1 percent of the overall state and local expenditures and $291 per resident.

The Pennsylvania snapshot also reported that 47 percent of those who left Pennsylvania prisons in 2016 were reincarcerated within 3 years.

The CSG Justice Center also offered a primer on ways that states can reduce violent crime.

Item number one concerned the number of violent crimes solved by law enforcement, which continues to decline. In 2022, there was no arrest in 63 percent of reported violent crimes.

Research shows that the certainty of getting caught—not the severity of punishment—is what can deter crime. This means that a dollar spent on increasing the likelihood of being arrested for committing a crime does far more to reduce crime than a dollar spent to incarcerate someone longer, CSG says.

The center suggests that through grant funding, states can support focused-deterrence policing strategies that work with the people and places most at risk of crime and victimization.

Other suggestions include identifying agencies with low solve rates to offer training and assistance, reducing detective caseloads, improving turnaround times at state crime labs for processing evidence, and increasing engagement with witnesses and victims.

Arkansas, New York, Oklahoma, and Pennsylvania are among several states that have established grant programs to help law enforcement address violent crime.

Other key recommendations in CSG's report:

--Making data-driven investments in violence prevention, including creation of a statewide crime prevention strategy. The report sites research in Washington State that compiled the available evidence on crime prevention programs to identify the most cost-effective ones.

--Preventing trauma, including by ensuing that adequate resources are available to meet the immediate needs of victims through emergency financial assistance programs. 

--Committing to a statewide recidivism-reduction goal. While nationally, recidivism rates are declining, 70 percent of people released from prison are still re-arrested within 5 years. States lack sufficient reentry services and supports to help people successfully reintegrate back into their communities. Through the national Reentry 2030 initiative, Alabama committed to reducing recidivism by 50 percent.

--Improving safety and justice data. Data on crime, arrests, backlogs, and punishments are hard to get. Despite an increasing focus on improving reentry outcomes, only half of states report data on outcomes for the millions of people sentenced to probation supervision. Racial inequities usually accumulate as people proceed further into the system. This means that bringing data together from across justice agencies is critical to diagnosing what is exacerbating disparities.

The Justice Counts initiative is a nationwide coalition of state and local agencies adopting a common set of metrics to provide key insights on system trends, operations, and outcomes across all criminal justice sectors.


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