Category Archives: Corrections

The Affordable Care Act: Implications for Public Safety and Corrections Populations

Source: Susan D. Phillips, Sentencing Project, September 2012

…States are now in the process of planning and carrying out the implementation of the ACA. Groups concerned with high rates of incarceration and, in particular, with its accompanying racial disparities, will want to follow these decisions. What follows is a brief introduction to the implications the ACA has for:
(1) lowering the number of people cycling through the criminal justice system because of behaviors stemming from addictions and mental illness;
(2) lowering correctional health care expenditures through improved continuity of care; and
(3) reducing racial disparities in incarceration related to disparities in health care access…

Growing Inmate Crowding Negatively Affects Inmates, Staff, and Infrastructure

Source: United States Government Accountability Office, GAO-12-743, September 12, 2012

From the summary:
The Department of Justice’s Bureau of Prisons’ (BOP) 9.5 percent population growth from fiscal years 2006 through 2011 exceeded the 7 percent increase in its rated capacity, and BOP projects continued population growth. Growth was most concentrated among male inmates, and in 2011, 48 percent of the inmates BOP housed were sentenced for drugs. From fiscal years 2006 through 2011, BOP increased its rated capacity by about 8,300 beds as a result of opening 5 new facilities and closing 4 minimum security camps, but because of the population expansion, crowding (or population in excess of rated capacity) increased from 36 to 39 percent. In 2011 crowding was most severe (55 percent) in highest security facilities. BOP’s 2020 long-range capacity plan projects continued growth in the federal prison population from fiscal years 2012 through 2020, with systemwide crowding exceeding 45 percent through 2018.

According to BOP, the growth in the federal inmate population has negatively affected inmates, staff, and infrastructure, but BOP has acted within its authority to help mitigate the effects of this growth. BOP officials reported increased use of double and triple bunking, waiting lists for education and drug treatment programs, limited meaningful work opportunities, and increased inmate-to-staff ratios. These factors, taken together, contribute to increased inmate misconduct, which negatively affects the safety and security of inmates and staff. BOP officials and union representatives voiced concerns about a serious incident occurring. To manage its growing population, BOP staggers meal times and segregates inmates involved in disciplinary infractions, among other things.

The five states in GAO’s review have taken more actions than BOP to reduce their prison populations, because these states have legislative authority that BOP does not have. These states have modified criminal statutes and sentencing, relocated inmates to local facilities, and provided inmates with additional opportunities for early release. BOP generally does not have similar authority. For example, BOP cannot shorten an inmate’s sentence or transfer inmates to local prisons. Efforts to address the crowding issue could include (1) reducing the inmate population by actions such as reforming sentencing laws, (2) increasing capacity by actions such as constructing new prisons, or (3) some combination of both.
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The Power of Incentives for Performance

Source: Susan K. Urahn, Governing, August 22, 2012

Corrections is one area in which a handful of states and their local governments are seeing big improvements in results — and saving millions in the process — through a novel funding approach….Faced with similar fiscal pressures, state and local governments can achieve better results at less cost by restructuring their relationships based on evidence of what works instead of simply cutting budgets or passing financial problems back and forth….

Doing "People Work" in the Prison Setting: An Examination of the Job Characteristics Model and Correctional Staff Burnout

Source: Marie L. Griffin, Nancy L. Hogan, Eric G. Lambert, Criminal Justice and Behavior, Vol. 39 no. 9, September 2012
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Although correctional staff job burnout is costly to all involved, it has not received the empirical attention it deserves. The job characteristics model holds that job characteristics are important in shaping employee outcomes. This study focused on the effects of the job characteristics of supervision consideration, supervision structure, job autonomy, and job variety on the three dimensions of job burnout (i.e., emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and perceived ineffectiveness at work) among correctional staff. Ordinary least squares (OLS) regression analysis of data from 160 staff members at a private prison indicated that job autonomy and job variety had significant negative relationships with emotional exhaustion. Supervision consideration, job autonomy, and job variety all had negative effects on the depersonalization dimension of burnout. Job autonomy and job variety had significant negative effects on perceived ineffectiveness.

Webinars On The Intersection Of Mental Health & Criminal Justice

Source: Consensus Project, July 2012

During the month of July, the Consensus Project hosted three webinars that focused on different aspects of the mental health/criminal justice intersect. At each of these events, mental health and criminal justice practitioners from across the country delivered presentations and then responded to questions from attendees during a moderated question and answer session hosted by a Council of State Governments staff member.

The recent Consensus Project webinars include:

Innovative Law Enforcement Strategies for Interacting with People with Mental Illnesses that Frequently Require Emergency and Crisis Services
presentation pdf

Fostering Criminal Justice/Mental Health Collaboration: Building Lasting Partnerships
presentation pdf

Women Engaged in the Criminal Justice System
presentation pdf

Occupational Injuries among U.S. Correctional Officers, 1999-2008

Source: Srinivas Konda, Audrey A. Reichard, Hope M. Tiesman, Journal of Safety Research, Volume 43, Issue 3, July 2012
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
This study describes fatal and nonfatal occupational injuries among U.S. correctional officers…. While workplace violence is the primary cause of both fatal and nonfatal injuries among correctional officers, transportation events and bodily reactions are also leading causes of occupational injury. Future research is needed to identify risk factors unique to these events and develop appropriate prevention and intervention efforts….This study adds to the literature on occupational injuries among correctional officers and provides a national level description of fatal and nonfatal injuries across a 10-year period. Given that assaults and violent acts, transportation events, and bodily reaction and exertion were significant injury events, future research should describe detailed injury circumstances and risk factors for correctional officers unique to these events. This would allow appropriate prevention and control efforts to be developed to reduce injuries from these events…

► There were 113 fatalities among correctional officers from 1999–2008. ► Eighteen officers were killed by inmates from 1999–2008. ► Nonfatal work-related injuries were estimated at 125,200 over 10 years. ► Violent acts were responsible for 45% of fatal and 38% of nonfatal injuries. ► Transportation related events were responsible for as many deaths as assaults.

Trends in U.S. Corrections

Source: The Sentencing Project, July 4, 2012

From the summary:
Trends in U.S. Corrections is a visual tool that provides a compilation of key developments in the criminal justice system over the past several decades.

Among the issues featured in this collection are:
• Rate of incarceration from 1925 to 2010
• International comparisons of incarceration rates
• Changes in the drug offender composition of prison populations over time
• Racial/ethnic disparities by gender in incarceration
• Increases in the number of people serving life sentences and life without parole since the 1980s
• Trends in the number of juveniles held in adult prisons and jails since 1985
• Increases in state corrections expenditures from 1985 to 2010

Insights Into Working With Mentally Ill Offenders in Corrections

Source: Peter Coffey, Corrections Today, Vol. 74 no. 2, April/May 2012

City, county, state and federal correctional facilities are currently some of the largest providers of psychiatric and substance abuse services in the nation. Their services focus on the incarceration and rehabilitation of people who commit criminal acts. Treatment services are geared toward reducing criminal thinking, thus returning a person into society who will not be a threat to the community. Essentially, the goal is to return someone to the community where he or she will potentially be a good neighbor or at the least a low-risk neighbor.

The correctional facilities that exist nationwide were never designed to be long-term behavioral health facilities. Staff were not trained and processes were not put into place, yet this has increasingly become the role of the facilities. The inmate population has an ever-increasing number of inmates with psychiatric diagnoses, substance dependency diagnoses and dual diagnoses. Correctional facilities struggle more and more with the day-to-day management of this population and thus have little ability to focus on treatment needs. this is not a fault of correctional facilities; this is a reality of the changing face of the population that is served. To understand what needs to be done to successfully work with mentally ill inmates within facilities and have them successfully reintegrate back into the community required an understanding of how things have arrived at this point. The questions that arise are:
– What is the extent of the problem?
– How did this occur?
– What needs to be done so that inmates with mental illness and/or substance abuse issues are safely reintegrated back into the greater community.

At America' s Expense: The Mass Incarceration of the Elderly

Source: American Civil Liberties Union, June 2012

From the summary:
At America’s Expense compiles extensive data detailing epidemic of aging prisoners in the United States. It provides a comprehensive 50-state and federal analysis of the unnecessary incarceration of aging prisoners and provides a fiscal analysis showing the actual amount states would save, on average, by releasing aging prisoners: over $66,000 per year per released prisoner. The report also includes new data showing that the elderly population is growing because of harsh sentencing laws and not because of new crimes, as well as data highlighting the low public safety risks posed by elderly prisoners. At America’s Expense supplies detailed and practical legislative solutions that states and the federal government can implement to address the dramatic and costly growth in the number of elderly prisoners without putting communities at risk.

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Rethinking How to Allocate Criminal Justice and Social Service Resources Is Focus of Publications for Local Officials

Source: Urban Institute, June 2012

From the abstract:
With municipalities and counties grappling with burgeoning jail populations and escalating costs, local public officials and community leaders are looking to the justice reinvestment process to tighten spending, control growth in jail use, and maintain safe neighborhoods. Three policy briefs help state, county, city, and community officials to identify the drivers of criminal justice costs, implement strategies to relieve spending pressures, and reinvest freed-up funds to yield greater public safety.

Tracking Costs and Savings through Justice Reinvestment, by Pamela Lachman and Rebecca Neusteter — focuses on how to reinvest savings to further public safety goals. It offers guidance on conducting a comprehensive spending assessment, targeting reinvestment efforts, and making the most of the savings. A worksheet describes a step-by-step approach to preparing for a justice reinvestment project.

“Data-Driven Decisionmaking for Strategic Justice Reinvestment,” by Allison Dwyer, Rebecca Neusteter, and Pamela Lachman, explains how population and cost data can help identify opportunities for increased efficiencies and measure the impact of reinvestment activities.

Improving Strategic Planning through Collaborative Bodies,” by Justin Archer, Rebecca Neusteter, and Pamela Lachman, discusses the essential role of strategic planning entities, outlines how they are structured and operated, and offers suggestions on forming collaborations. A case study from Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, highlights how a successful collaborative body can conduct case reviews to identify systemic problems and develop solutions.

Justice Reinvestment at the Local Level: Planning and Implementation Guide,” an 80-page how-to, was published in 2010. A revised edition will be issued this summer, along with two toolkits. Each toolkit — one for county executives and other municipal leaders and the second for local criminal justice planners and analysts — will detail the necessary steps for individuals in these positions to undertake a justice reinvestment strategy in their community.