Vera Institute Report on Criminal Justice Reform

The Vera Institute  of Justice has published a new report on criminal justice reform efforts at the state level. The report catalogues a number of strategies from states across the political spectrum: In New Jersey, voters and lawmakers gave judges more power to release low-risk defendants who can’t afford bail, letting them go home rather than sit in jail while they await trial. In Idaho, a new law created 24-hour crisis centers to help keep people with mental health issues from being locked up unnecessarily. Georgia and Louisiana established courts for military veterans accused of crimes. Hawaii funded programs to help reunify children with parents who are behind bars.
The report also summarizes recent criminal justice research, which indicates that:
> longer sentences have no more than a marginal effect in reducing recidivism and shorter sentence lengths do not have a significant negative impact on public safety;
> many people can be safely and effectively supervised in the community rather than in custody at lower cost;
> post-punishment penalties and restrictions (the collateral consequences of criminal conviction) hinder people upon release from prison or discharge from community supervision in addressing known risk factors for reoffending—such as mental illness, substance-abuse problems, lack of vocational skills, education, and housing—with now
well-understood impacts on their families and communities.

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