The initial development of the ‘Justice Reinvestment’ concept took place in the USA. It is described as a “data-driven approach to reduce corrections spending and reinvest savings in strategies that can decrease crime and strengthen neighborhoods.”
It was driven by four factors:
Nationwide, state spending on corrections had risen faster in the 20 years from 1988 to 2008 than spending on nearly any other state budget item—increasing from about $12 billion to $52 billion a year.
Despite mounting corrections spending, rates of reincarceration remain high and, by some measures, have actually worsened.
Research points to practices and programs that can effectively reduce crime and rates of recidivism.
Often, policymakers do not have Information about what factors are driving crime, re-offence rates, and the growth of correctional populations. They also lack geographic analyses about which benefits and services are being invested and coordinated in neighborhoods where many people under criminal justice supervision live.
The pioneering influence came from the George Soros Open Society Institute, in a report entitled “Ideas for an Open Society: Justice Reinvestment"
Download “Ideas for an Open Society: Justice Reinvestment”
In Ideas for an Open Society, Susan Tucker and Eric Cadora argued that the nation's dependence on mass incarceration reflects an approach to imprisonment that actually sacrifices public safety. They contended that the appropriate strategy to address this situation is to reallocate funding throughout the U.S. criminal justice system toward education, housing, health care, and jobs—all priority areas that can directly influence crime rates.
Justice Reinvestment and the work of the Justice Center
The idea gained traction, and in the USA was coordinated by the Justice Center, an organisation within the Council of State Governments. The Council of State Governments Justice Center is a national nonprofit organization that serves policymakers at the local, state, and federal levels from all branches of government. It provides practical, nonpartisan advice and consensus-driven strategies—informed by available evidence—to increase public safety and strengthen communities.
Policymakers establish a small, high-level, inter-branch, bipartisan team of elected and appointed officials to work with the Justice Center’s nationally recognized criminal justice policy experts. These experts then consult with a broad range of stakeholders in a selected jurisdiction. These stakeholders can include justice sector progessionals, community leaders, victims and their advocates and those who have themselves been incarcerated.
Together, these policymakers, experts, and stakeholders work to:
Analyze data and develop policy options.
Adopt new policies and put reinvestment strategies into place.
Download the Justice Center’s Brief on Justice Reinvestment
Visit the Justice Center's website
In January 2010, the US Justice Department, in partnership with the PEW Center on the States, Public Welfare Foundation, and the Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center hosted a National Summit on Justice Reinvestment on Capitol Hill.
Participants heard of the success of this approach. Two examples:
Policymakers in Connecticut, facing an unprecedented budget deficit and a prison population growing faster than any other state, enacted laws that streamlined the parole process for low-risk offenders, addressed the high rate of probation violations, and developed a comprehensive strategy to reduce recidivism. Almost $13 million of the nearly $30 million saved was reinvested in community-based pilot projects. Probation violations dropped from 400 in July 2003 to 200 in September 2005. The decrease in the prison population over a two-year period was steeper than that seen in almost any other state while the crime rate continued to drop.
Nevada’s prison population has been among the fastest growing in the nation, and was projected to grow faster, increasing 61 percent by 2017. High rates of failure among people on probation as well as the lack of community-based treatment for substance abuse, mental illness, or co-occurring disorders were identified as the key factors driving the growth in the prison population. In response to this growth, the legislature enacted several policy measures to provide incentives for people to successfully complete probation and parole terms in Nevada. As a result, the state expected to save $28 million by 2009. To ensure that the savings are reinvested in expanding community-based behavioral health care services, the state established a Justice Reinvestment fund with $6.3 million.
Read more about the National Summit on Justice Reinvestment
Read more about the USA's proposed Criminal Justice Reinvestment Act