In light of fiscal constraints, how are some states rethinking sentencing policy?

Lauren-Brooke Eisen Former, Senior Program Associate, Center on Sentencing and Corrections
Mar 06, 2012

Today Vera released Reallocating Justice Resources: A Review of 2011 State Sentencing Trends. This report distills lessons from 14 states that passed research-driven sentencing and corrections reform in 2011, observing that successful efforts to change policy have some things in common:

  • States are getting smarter on crime. State policymakers are using data to understand whether they are putting their prison beds to best use and whether some of those incarcerated can be managed safely and rehabilitated more effectively in the community, ultimately resulting in greater public safety.  
  • Bipartisan, multidisciplinary efforts typically have the greatest chance of success. Policymakers are working across the aisle to generate savings and other benefits for stakeholders throughout the system.  
  • It is critical to measure what counts and evaluate the outcomes. Significant policy reforms, like the ones discussed in this report, invite important questions about how to support and sustain change. Improving data collection and analysis will help states track successes and improve future decision making, allowing for smart investment in strategies that work.  
  • Although states will continue to struggle with how to spend their corrections dollars wisely, the examples in this report show that policymakers can craft criminal justice policies that are tailored to a state’s needs and reflect the best science available.