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C A R O L I N A
JUSTICE POLICY CENTER
"Criminal Justice Advocacy since 1975"
Legislative Criminal Justice Policy Brief
Watch What Really Happens to the Mentally Ill When Released from Prison
Tuesday, April 28th at 9pm – PBS
Five years ago, the television show Frontline aired the report ‘The New Asylums’ which portrayed the experiences of individuals with severe mental illnesses in Ohio’s prisons. Now, Frontline returns to Ohio to tell the disturbing story of what happens to these individuals when they are released from prisons into the community. Watch part two of this story, ‘The Released’, on Tuesday, April 28th at 9pm on PBS.
The story is not a pleasant one. Barriers to treatment, housing and other supportive services are even more pronounced for ex-offenders than they are for the general population of people with mental illnesses. It almost seems like these individuals are being set up to re-offend, which is frequently the case.
‘The Released’ – Watch Online or Check Local Listings
Original Airing of ‘The New Asylums’
North Carolina Bill Bans Capital Sentencing for the Mentally Ill
Treatment of the mentally ill in North Carolina’s prisons continues to be a hot topic since most prisoners are either mentally ill, chemically addicted or both. To bring attention to the disparate treatment of the mentally ill in NC’s correctional and health care systems, NC’s Disability Rights is currently working on Senate Bill 309. The legislation if passed will ban executions for the mentally ill. Advocates highlight the absence of quality intervention and treatment in the community to prevent people from committing violent offenses as one reason to support such legislation.
One Hurdle Jumped
NC Racial Justice Act Moves Out of Conservative House Ways & Means Committee
The NC Racial Justice Act jumped a huge hurdle in the North Carolina House last Wednesday. With leadership from House Ways and Means committee member, Rep. Phil Haire, a committee substitute for
House Bill 472, was favorably reported to the House Judiciary I committee chaired by Raleigh Democrat Deb Ross. The committee substitute includes language changes that ensure that jurors remain protected during appeals and that juror matters are handled in accordance with current state law.
If signed into law this year, North Carolina will join Kentucky in becoming the second state in the nation to add the use of statistics to legal challenges on the grounds of race. An unaltered version of the NC Racial Justice Act is also still in play in the NC Senate.
Finally Something NC Can Learn From Texas
Texas State Representative Tells NC How to Reduce Prison Beds
Jerry Madden, a Republican Representative in the Texas State House told North Carolina Legislators last week that Texas had been able to reduce its skyrocketing prison costs and North Carolina could too.
The Texas Speaker of the House tapped Rep. Madden, an engineer and self-described social conservative, for the task of finding ways to bring the costs and the population under control. Madden has clearly been the legislator for the job. Working together with a leading Senate Democrat, he helped forge a plan that has greatly reduced the 17,000 new prison beds Texas was slated to need.
"There are ways you can do this thing," Madden told legislators. He explained that it’s not always necessary to make big changes in order to lower costs. For example, "if you have 5% that don’t return to prison, that’s 1500 people. That’s one prison and next year it’s the same."
"I guarantee you, if you build it, they will come," Madden said about building new prisons which costs $250 – $300 million each in Texas and $40 million to operate. Texas has 150,000 people in prison, 450,000 on probation and 77,000 on parole – a total of 7% of the male population in Texas is under some form of correctional supervision. Texans spend $5.6 billion per year on their correctional system. North Carolina spends over a $1 billion per year.
Major Changes Pursued in Some States
Madden pointed to other states, such as Michigan and Kansas that are also making major changes in their population and spending. Michigan – a state that has 1 in 3 state employees working for the Department of Correction – has not only reduced the projections, they’ve cut the actual population.
One approach in Texas and Michigan is taking steps to reduce the high rates of failure for people leaving the system. Even a small reduction in the failure rate can have big financial pay offs down the road. To do that, Madden said, "We found we needed more drug treatment and mental health programs." In previous year Texas had cut offender treatment programs to build more beds.
Probation revocations are another area that has been targeted in both Kansas and Texas. As in North Carolina, a high percentage of prison admissions in Kansas were probation revocations. We need to look for the "swingers" Madden said. He explained that some offenders who are revoked definitely need to be in prison and some will do ok no matter what is done, but those people in the middle are worth the extra attention to keep them from coming back. Those "swingers" can help save the state a lot of money.
Michael Thompson from the Council of State Governments in New York worked with Texas to help develop data for their state’s approach. Thompson cited counties in some states that have exceptionally large numbers of offenders returning from prison or jail. In Maricopa County, Arizona, for example, two-thirds of those released were returning to a single neighborhood. The neighborhood had 1% of the state’s population and 6% of the population returning from prison.
In some states, leaders have chosen to "incentivize" communities to lower their revocations. They found if they could lower their revocation rate by just 1%, the community could receive $400,000 to address local housing and treatment needs. A number of North Carolina communities could be prime candidates for this kind of innovative solution.
Finally, Madden emphasized that the changes made in Texas didn’t require new legislation, but were accomplished through appropriations acts, one more indication that there are many ways to address the problem.
Hold on to Your Hats
NC Revenue Picture Still Up in the Air
North Carolina House budget leaders have not yet reported on the status of the April 15 revenue returns. Projections have been dire for months and House budget leaders have been warning that they will probably have less money to apply to their budget than was projected in the Senate. Hold on to your hats if that’s the case, because there could be more cuts and eliminations before it’s over.
A big piece of the puzzle, of course, will be the revenue package that is developed in each chamber. The Senate came out with a package this week that was viewed by the Budget and Tax Center as more progressive than revenue packages in the past. At the same time, though, they point to corporate loopholes that need to be closed. We hope the House will give careful attention to those items.
Cuts Can Go Deeper than they Look
North Carolina non-profits operating community-based services were cut by 10% in the NC Senate’s Justice and Public Safety budget. Some cuts went even deeper though because the 10% cut was taken from a base level of funding which did not include non-recurring dollars. Women at Risk, a program specializing in programs for female offenders in Western North Carolina, will actually face a 30% cut, which will require them to completely eliminate services in one Western county.
Likewise, Sentencing Services will have to reduce information to judges and local offender placements by a total of 16%.
These cuts dig even deeper into the state’s ability to provide sound alternatives to prison at the local level and the consequence will be an ever higher projection for additional prison beds.
Building Knowledge & Finding Help
Find your State Legislator
North Carolina Prison Information & Inmate Search
North Carolina Courts, Court Personnel & Court Calendars
Find an Attorney
Legal Assistance for Prisoners
Legal Representation for Indigent Defendants
Legal Representation for Capital Murder Defendants
NC Alcohol and Drug Rehab Programs & Addiction Treatment Centers
COMING FALL 2009!
North Carolina’s Criminal Justice Resource Directory for Practitioners, Offenders’ and Their Families
Monday, April 27, 2009
In This Issue
Capital Ban for Mentally Ill
RJA Jumps 1 Hurdle
Prison Bed Reduction Lessons from Texas
Revenue Outlook Slim
Budget Cuts Actually Deeper
Upcoming Conferences & Events
2009 Freedom’s Voice Conference:
Strengthening Families During Incarceration & Reentry
April 30-May 1, 2009
2009 Community Capacity Development Office Nat’l Conference
July 13-16, 2009
National Conference on Addiction and Criminal Behavior
Sept 13-16, 2009
St. Louis, Missouri
Upcoming Death Penalty Educational Events
State & National Research Findings
Pew’s 1 in 31
Reallocate Prison Expenses to Stronger Community Programs & Community Supervision
CJPC Staff & Volunteers
Charmaine S. Fuller
Lao E. Rubert
Senior Director of
Policy & Special Projects
NC Central Dept of Political Science
NC Central School of Law
Volunteer Office Aide
Volunteer Office Aide
Board of Directors
Dr. George P. Wilson, Sr.
NC Central University Professor of Criminal Justice
Friends of the Mountains to Sea Trail – Executive Director
Dr. Peter H. Burian
Classical Studies Professor
Dr. Jeffrey Elliot
NC Central University Political Science Dept Chair
Dr. Jarvis Hall
NC Central University
Civic Engagement Director
Self-Help Community Credit Union
Institute of Government
CJPC is a partner organization
of the following:
HK on J Progressive Coalition for Social Change
"A Movement Not a Moment"
North Carolina Center for Nonprofits
Coalition for a Moratorium on Executions
Post Office Box 309
Durham, NC 27702-0309
"Promoting effective, equitable, and humane solutions to criminal justice problems since 1975."
Production of this Newsletter is made possible by the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, the Tides Death Penalty Mobilization Fund and the generous support of individual donors.
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