Bill aimed at reducing prison population could save state $247 million to be reinvested into reducing recidivism, improving community support.
The Justice Reinvestment Act (HB 1312/SB 1005) could mean big savings for the state — $247 million over 10 years to be exact. But that figure rests on the many pieces of the omnibus bill falling into place.
The bill intend to accomplish this by focusing state prison beds on serious and non-violent offenders, strengthening probation and parole supervision, improving and streamlining release and reentry practices, and ensuring oversight and accountability. These changes should result in a 14% decrease in the state prison population by 2026.
Crucial to the success of the initiative will be the reinvestment of those savings into local programs that reduce recidivism and provide support to those individuals. These individuals will be coming back into the local communities and will need support to ensure they do not end up back in the system.
The bill requires the state to conduct a local gap analysis between offender treatment needs and available treatment services in jurisdictions across the state. This will be important to ensuring the gaps are understood and resources can be targeted appropriately. It also creates a local incentive grant fund from the savings generated by the initiative for local jurisdictions to invest in programs that reduce recidivism and correctional costs. For example funds can be used for diversion programs, specialty courts, and reentry programs. It is intended to be flexible enough so that communities could address their specific local needs and gaps. A Local Government Justice Reinvestment Commission would be created to advice the state Justice Reinvestment Board on local matters and make recommendations regarding the local incentive grant funds.
These are important provisions to MACo to make sure services are able to be provided on a local level to the population that is released or diverted from incarceration. Without reinvestment the current capacity for services, which is already stressed, would not be able to meet the increased need.
The MACo Legislative Committee was visited Wednesday by representatives of the Justice Reinvestment Coordinating Council including Council Chair Chris Shank, subcommittee Chairs Delegate Dumais, Senator Hough and Senator Zirkin, and Laura Bennett from Pew.
Shank, Dumais and Bennett briefed the legislative committee on the JRCC efforts over the interim and the resulting Justice Reinvestment Act bill.
The JRCC was charged with reviewing the State’s criminal justice structure and making recommendations to reduce Maryland’s prison population, reduce needless correctional spending, reinvest savings into more efficient programs that help improve criminal justice outcomes. The JRCC, with technical support from the Pew Center and Council of State Governments, performed extensive data gathering and held hours of subcommittee and stakeholder meetings which eventually led to the consensus recommendations the 84 page bill incorporates.
HB 1312 has been jointly assigned to the House Judiciary Committee and Health and Government Operations Committee. The hearing in Judiciary is scheduled for Friday, March 4, 2016.
SB 1005 has been to the Senate Judicial Proceedings. The hearing is scheduled in Judicial Proceedings for Wednesday, March 2, 2016.
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