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Recalibrating Justice: A Review of 2013 State Sentencing and Corrections Trends, Vera Institute, 2014

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CENTER ON SENTENCING AND CORRECTIONS

Recalibrating Justice:
A Review of 2013 State Sentencing
and Corrections Trends
JULY 2014

Ram Subramanian • Rebecka Moreno • Sharyn Broomhead

FROM THE CENTER DIRECTOR
This is the third in a series of reports published by the Vera Institute of Justice’s
Center on Sentencing and Corrections in 2014 looking at changes to criminal
sentencing laws. The other two, Playbook for Change? States Reconsider Mandatory Minimums and Drug War Detente? A Review of State-level Drug Law Reform, 2009-2013, take longer and deeper looks at trends in criminal sentencing
in the United States, but all three reports reflect the gathering momentum for
criminal justice reform in the states. While many, if not most, of these changes
are too recent to measure their direct impact on prison populations and recidivism, broadly gathered administrative data show that state prison populations
are continuing to shrink from their 2010 peak.
These trends have complex political and budgetary roots, including growing
public awareness of how many of those incarcerated are there for nonviolent,
often drug-related, crimes, and how many are debilitated by mental illness, drug
dependency, illiteracy or under-education, developmental delays, or trauma and
abuse. At a time of significantly lower rates of violent crime, public awareness of
the ineffectiveness of prison in ameliorating or responding to these problems has
grown together with the knowledge of what can be accomplished with community-based approaches that also hold offenders accountable.
From appalling incarceration numbers, budgetary crises, and greater public
knowledge, this momentum for reform has redirected the discussion on crime
away from the question of how best to punish to how best to achieve long-term
public safety.

Peggy McGarry
Director, Center on Sentencing and Corrections

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RECALIBRATING JUSTICE: A REVIEW OF 2013 STATE SENTENCING AND CORRECTIONS TRENDS

Contents
4	

About this report

4	

Introduction

8	

Reducing prison populations and costs

16	 Expanding or strengthening community corrections
25	 Implementing risk and needs assessments
26	 Supporting the reentry of offenders into the community
36	 Making better informed criminal justice policy
39	 Conclusion
40	
Appendix A: Sentencing and corrections legislation
by state, 2013
42	
Appendix B: Sentencing and corrections legislation
by reform type, 2013

VERA INSTITUTE OF JUSTICE

3

About this report
In 2013, 35 states passed at least 85 bills to change some aspect of how their
criminal justice systems address sentencing and corrections. In reviewing this
legislative activity, the Vera Institute of Justice found that policy changes have
focused mainly on the following five areas: reducing prison populations and
costs; expanding or strengthening community-based corrections; implementing risk and needs assessments; supporting offender reentry into the community; and making better informed criminal justice policy through data-driven
research and analysis. By providing concise summaries of representative
legislation in each area, this report aims to be a practical guide for policymakers
in other states and the federal government looking to enact similar changes in
criminal justice policy.

Introduction
From the early 1970s to the beginning of the 21st century, crime control policy
in the United States was dominated by an increasing reliance on incarceration. The growth in punitive sanctioning policies—mandatory penalties,
truth-in-sentencing laws, and habitual offender statutes like “three strikes”
laws—resulted in many more people going to prison for longer periods of time,
dramatically accelerating the U.S. incarceration rate and the cost of corrections.1
By January 1, 2013, the number of persons confined to state prisons surpassed 1.3
million—an increase of nearly 700 percent from 1972—and total state correctional expenditures topped $53.3 billion in fiscal year 2012.2
However, in the last several years, the tide seems to be turning. Between 2006
and 2012, 19 states reduced their prison population, including six states—New
York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Hawaii, Michigan, and California—that experienced double-digit reductions; and in 2012, the total U.S. prison population
marginally dropped for the third consecutive year.3 These declines may have
been the result of deliberate policy choices to rein in the size and cost of prison
systems. However, cause and effect has been difficult to determine, and other,
more local shifts, such as a change in police or judicial practices over time may
also be in play.4 Indeed, some states, such as New York and New Jersey, have
experienced significant drops in prison population without undertaking major
legislative changes to achieve this. In other states, such as Ohio, Kentucky, and
New Hampshire, anticipated impacts have been stymied in part due to implementation challenges, some unforeseen, others not.5
Despite the variation in outcomes and a need to study how new policies
are mobilized and deployed, emerging trends are clear: many states are continuing to re-examine the ways in which they respond to offenders at every
stage of the criminal justice process, from arrest and punishment to reentry
and rehabilitation. Although prompted by the recent economic crisis, state

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RECALIBRATING JUSTICE: A REVIEW OF 2013 STATE SENTENCING AND CORRECTIONS TRENDS

policymakers’ willingness to effect change has been spurred by dissatisfaction
with stubbornly high recidivism rates and bolstered by public opinion polls
that show a majority of the electorate believes that prison growth has yielded
insufficient public safety returns.6 Over the last several years, many states have
embarked on broad-based criminal justice reform to reduce prison populations,
strengthen community corrections, balance budgets, and improve public safety.
Eschewing the reflexively tough-on-crime policies of the past, the focus of policymaking has shifted to the effectiveness of correctional systems in terms of
cost and outcomes.7 And as policymakers increasingly understand that supporting offenders’ transition into the community is critical to reducing their risk of
recidivism, this new focus has been coupled with a deepening concern over the
challenges faced by ex-offenders after they complete their sentences.8
These trends continued during the 2013 legislative session. States enacted legislation consistent with the growing body of research demonstrating that carefully
implemented and well-targeted community-based programs and practices can
produce better outcomes at less cost than incarceration.9 The new laws passed

in 2013 include measures to ease mandatory sentencing and boost community
corrections. There was also a focus on reentry, with attention paid to alleviating
the long-term collateral consequences of criminal convictions for ex-offenders,
such as difficulty qualifying for housing, employment, public benefits, and other
important supports. States also continued a recent trend of promoting the use of
evidence-based, data-driven practices and relying on the support of external groups
of experts and stakeholders—such as sentencing commissions or oversight councils—to help guide the development of sentencing and corrections policies.
In 2013, states passed legislation to:
>> Reduce prison populations and costs. In order to safely reduce the flow of offenders to prison and to ensure that the punishment is commensurate with the
severity of, and harm caused by, the crime, states repealed or narrowed mandatory sentencing schemes, reclassified offenses, or altered sentencing presumptions. States also sought to expand access to early release mechanisms—such
as good time credits—designed to accelerate sentence completion.
>> Expand or strengthen community-based sanctions. States adopted legislation to introduce or strengthen community corrections strategies and
programs proven to reduce recidivism. Legislation was passed creating or
expanding eligibility for diversion programs—a sentencing alternative to
traditional criminal case processing through which charges will be dismissed
or expunged if a defendant completes a community-based program or stays
out of trouble for a specified period. States also expanded community-based
sentencing options, including the use of problem-solving courts.
>>Implement risk and needs assessments. Several states focused on the
use of validated risk and needs assessments as the basis for implementing
individualized case plans to guide supervision, programming, and interven-

VERA INSTITUTE OF JUSTICE

5

tions. These states passed laws requiring assessments of an offender’s risk
of recidivism as well as his or her criminogenic needs—characteristics, such
as anti-social attitudes and associates, drug addiction, or mental illness,
that when addressed can reduce that risk. States incorporated these assessments at different points in the criminal justice process—at the pretrial
stage, at the pre-sentencing stage, or to inform supervision and programming, whether in prison or in the community.
>>Support the reentry of offenders into the community. States passed laws
to mitigate the collateral consequences of criminal convictions—such as
restrictions on social benefits and exclusion from employment—that hinder
the successful reentry and reintegration of ex-offenders back into the community. In some states, legislators sought to clarify, expand, or create ways
to seal or expunge criminal records from the public record. Others focused
on helping offenders transition from prison or jail back into the community
by mandating more in-prison support prior to release, including transitional
leave programs, or by providing necessary resources or supports post-release.
>>Make better informed criminal justice policy. A number of states sought a
deliberate discussion about the purpose and impact of proposed sentencing
and corrections legislation and looked to external groups—such as sentencing commissions, oversight councils, or working groups comprised of key
criminal justice experts and stakeholders—to debate proposals, collect and
analyze data, and formulate policy recommendations. Some states even
passed legislation requiring fiscal or social impact statements in order to help
legislators consider the ramifications of proposed criminal justice reforms.

A NOTE ABOUT BILL SUMMARIES
This report does not aim to provide an exhaustive listing or analysis of
every criminal justice-related bill passed by the states in 2013. Rather, the
authors selected for inclusion here only those bills most representative
of the five broad types or areas of reform in sentencing and corrections
that growing numbers of states have been pursuing in recent years. The
bill summaries in the report are for this reason organized by the type or
area of reform rather than by state. (See Appendix A for a listing by state
of all legislation covered in this report.) Finally, where a particular piece
of legislation makes distinct changes in multiple areas (e.g., by reducing prison populations and costs and also expanding or strengthening
community corrections), a summary of the bill’s relevant provisions are
included under each corresponding reform category.

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RECALIBRATING JUSTICE: A REVIEW OF 2013 STATE SENTENCING AND CORRECTIONS TRENDS

VERA INSTITUTE OF JUSTICE

7

Making Better Informed Criminal Justice Policy

Supporting the Reentry of Offenders Into the Community

Implementing Risk and Needs Assessments

Expanding or Strengthening Community Corrections

Reducing Prison Populations and Costs

MAPPING 2013 STATE SENTENCING AND CORRECTIONS TRENDS

Reducing prison populations
and costs
Lawmakers in 2013 continued to question whether incarceration and long custodial sentences are the most effective responses to criminal behavior. Fueled
by a desire to achieve cost and population reductions while maintaining or
even enhancing public safety, a number of state legislatures repealed or limited
mandatory penalties, such as mandatory minimum sentences and automatic
sentence enhancements. Elsewhere, in order to reserve the costly resource of
prison for the most serious and dangerous offenders, states focused on achieving better proportionality in sentencing by recalibrating their sentencing
schemes to ensure that prescribed punishments are commensurate with the
nature and severity of—and harm caused by—each type of crime. Finally, other
states enhanced their use of early release mechanisms.

REPEALING OR LIMITING MANDATORY PENALTIES
Mandatory penalties—which include mandatory minimum sentences, automatic sentence enhancements, and habitual offender laws—require sentencing
courts to impose fixed terms of incarceration where set statutory criteria are
satisfied. This is often to the exclusion of other factors that sentencing judges
typically take into account, such as an individual’s character and circumstances
of the crime. The triggering criteria may include the type and level of offense,
the quantity and type of drugs, the number of previous felony convictions, the
use of a firearm, or the proximity to a school.
Although these laws—hallmarks of the tough-on-crime era—were typically
enacted on the assumption they would help control crime by “sending a message” to potential offenders, research has shown that enhancing the severity
of punishment, when most offenders don’t believe they will be apprehended,
adds little deterrent value.10 Moreover, a growing body of research is now casting
doubt on the notion that longer sentences help to reduce recidivism.11 Rather than
deterring crime and reducing recidivism, mandatory penalties are, instead, one
of the major contributing factors to the growth of state prison populations and
costs.12 Further, policymakers are now more aware of their human costs, such as
the disproportionate impact on people of color.13
As legislators become more aware of the questionable benefits and the fiscal
and social costs of mandatory penalties, they are increasingly willing to reconsider their use, particularly in relation to drug offenses.14 Since 2000, at least 29
states have modified or repealed mandatory sentencing policies.15 This trend
continued in 2013. For example, state legislatures in Georgia and Hawaii restored some discretion to sentencing judges by creating “safety valve” provisions for certain drug and property offenses, which allow judges to depart from

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RECALIBRATING JUSTICE: A REVIEW OF 2013 STATE SENTENCING AND CORRECTIONS TRENDS

mandatory minimum sentences or to suspend sentences if certain conditions
are present in the case. Illinois and Indiana took steps to remove or mitigate
automatic sentencing enhancements by revising the criteria that trigger the
mandatory sentence.
>>Colorado SB 250 removes the automatic repeat offender sentencing enhancement for a second drug distribution conviction. Previously, the felony
class was raised by one level on a second offense.
>>Georgia HB 349 allows judges to depart from mandatory sentences for
some drug offenses if the defendant was not a ringleader, did not possess a
weapon during the crime, did not cause a death or serious bodily injury to
an innocent bystander, had no prior felony conviction, and if the interests
of justice would be served by a departure. The offenses that are covered by
the law include trafficking and manufacturing of cocaine, ecstasy, marijuana, and methamphetamine as well as the sale or cultivation of large
quantities of marijuana. The judge must specify the reasons for the departure. Alternatively, a judge may sentence below the mandatory minimum if
the prosecuting attorney and the defendant have both agreed to a modified
sentence.
>>Hawaii SB 68 grants judges the discretion to depart from a mandatory
minimum in favor of an indeterminate sentence when the defendant is
convicted of a Class B or Class C felony drug offense and the judge finds
a departure “appropriate to the defendant’s particular offense and underlying circumstances.” Previously, Class B and Class C drug felonies had
mandatory sentences of 10 and five years respectively. Under SB 68, judges
may impose a term of between five and 10 years for a Class B felony, and
between one and five years for a Class C felony. Exceptions apply for some
offenses, including promoting use of a dangerous drug, drug offenses involving children, and habitual offenders.
>>Illinois SB 1872 removes school zone and repeat offender enhancements
for prostitution charges. Previously, engaging in prostitution within 1,000
feet of a school or having a previous prostitution-related conviction would
elevate the offense of prostitution from a misdemeanor to a felony. Now,
prostitution may only result in a misdemeanor conviction.
>>Indiana HB 1006 reduces the size of the school zone for all drug offenses
from 1,000 to 500 feet and limits the application of the enhancement to
when children are reasonably expected to be present. The law also removes
family housing complexes and youth program centers from the definition
of sites protected under the school zone enhancement.

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9

>>Kansas SB 58 limits the application of a special sentencing rule for
second drug manufacturing convictions by imposing it only in instances
where the prior offense involved methamphetamine. Previously, the
enhancement applied regardless of the substance at issue in the prior
conviction. The sentencing enhancement calls for a sentence of double
the maximum presumptive sentence. The judge may grant a reduction of
no more than half of the increased time, meaning offenders subject to the
enhancement must be sentenced to at least 75 percent of the maximum
potential sentence.
>>Oregon HB 3194 gives judges the discretion to sentence certain repeat
drug offenders to probation. This law repeals a prior ballot measure that
mandated a minimum sentence of incarceration for these offenders by
prohibiting judges from ordering probation.16

PROPORTIONALITY IN SENTENCING: RECLASSIFYING
OFFENSES OR ALTERING SENTENCING PRESUMPTIONS
The principle of proportionality in sentencing is simple: the punishment
should be in proportion to the severity of the crime. This principle underlies
the creation of categories of felonies (Classes A, B, C, D, etc.) and the assignment
of different sentencing options to each category. In 2013, a number of states
concluded that their sentencing structures did not sufficiently differentiate
between minor and serious crimes or that certain penalties were too harsh.
In Indiana, for example, the Criminal Code Evaluation Commission observed
that Indiana’s offense classifications were both inadequate and inappropriate,
pointing to the fact that possession of three grams of cocaine with intent to
deliver attracted a harsher sentence than rape.17 To resolve such incongruity,
Indiana, along with Colorado, Connecticut, Maryland, Oregon, South Dakota,
and Vermont, reclassified offenses to realign the proportionality of their
sentencing schemes. These states created more felony categories per type of
criminal offense, reclassified low-level crimes from felonies to misdemeanors,
and introduced or increased felony thresholds for certain crimes. Meanwhile,
Colorado, Maryland, Oregon, and South Dakota passed laws altering sentence
presumptions; for example, by making probation the presumptive sentence
for an offense that previously allowed either prison or probation, or in
Maryland, by repealing the death penalty and substituting life without parole.
By enhancing proportionality in this way, a sentencing structure
can better ensure that only the most serious crimes attract imprisonment or
long sentences.
>>Colorado HB 1160 increases the number of theft offense classes from four to
nine, which allows for greater proportionality by narrowing the monetary
value thresholds that trigger each offense class. The new offense classes

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RECALIBRATING JUSTICE: A REVIEW OF 2013 STATE SENTENCING AND CORRECTIONS TRENDS

include three misdemeanor and five felony classes and result in a reduction
of penalties for theft of almost all property valued up to $100,000. A petty
offense class is created for theft of items worth under $50, and the felony
threshold is raised from $1,000 to $2,000.
>>Colorado SB 250 removes drug crimes from the state’s general felony
classification and sentencing grid and creates a new stand-alone
classification scheme. Each level is assigned a presumptive sentencing
range, and some levels are assigned an aggravated sentencing range that
applies when an aggravating factor (e.g., if the offense was committed
while on probation or parole) is involved. The law classifies all felony
possession as the lowest drug felony level. SB 250 also establishes a
presumption that low-level felony drug offenders be sentenced to a
community-based sanction. A judge may sentence convicted offenders
to incarceration only after showing that community-based sanctions
have been tried and failed, would fail if they were tried, or present
an unacceptable risk to society. The law explicitly states that highrisk offenders can be successfully managed in the community with
proper supervision and programming and should not be excluded from
consideration. Using an evidence-based, validated risk assessment tool, the
law also directs the probation department to assess all probationers and to
place all high-risk offenders in an intensive supervision program. The court
may also make residential drug treatment a condition of probation.
>>Connecticut SB 983 creates a new offense category—a Class E felony. This
category is any felony that carries a maximum prison term of more than
one but less than three years. The law also repeals the one year (non-mandatory) minimum for Class D felonies.
>>Indiana HB 1006 expands Indiana’s felony classification scheme from four
levels to six. Although the law increases penalties for serious crimes, such
as sex crimes and violent crimes, the law decreases sentences for other
crimes, including some theft and drug possession offenses. Previously,
Indiana was the only state that classified all theft as a felony. This law also
introduces more graduated sentencing for drug crimes. Possession of marijuana and other low-level drug offenses are now misdemeanors and possession of small amounts of more serious drugs are reduced to less serious
felonies. First-time possession of less than an ounce of marijuana has been
downgraded to a lower misdemeanor.
>>Maryland HB 1396 alters sentencing provisions for extortion, malicious
destruction of property, passing bad checks, credit card fraud, and identity
fraud. The law raises the felony threshold to $1,000 (from $500) and
graduates felony sentencing upwards based on property value. Punishment

VERA INSTITUTE OF JUSTICE

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ranges are given for offenses involving $1,000 to $10,000, $10,000 to
$100,000, and more than $100,000. These new ranges impose less severe
punishment on someone convicted of a felony involving a relatively low
property value than that person would have received under the old law.
A felony involving a relatively higher property value now carries a more
severe sentence than it previously would have.
>>Maryland SB 276 repeals the death penalty and substitutes life with no
possibility of parole. In cases in which the state has already submitted a notice to seek the death penalty, the law withdraws this notice and converts it
to a notice to seek life without parole.
>>Oregon HB 3194 introduces presumptive sentences of probation for marijuana offenses and driving with a suspended license. The law also reduces
the presumptive sentence for identity theft and robbery in the third degree
(the lowest level of robbery, which requires the use or threat of physical
force) from 24 to 18 months, when the offender has prior property crime
convictions. These revised sentencing provisions sunset after 10 years.
>>Oregon SB 40 restructures marijuana offenses. The law introduces a distinction between marijuana, defined as the leaves, stems, and flowers of
the plant, and marijuana product, which includes the derivatives, resin, and
compounds made from the plant. Previously, possession of marijuana was
a Class B felony, but less than one ounce of stems, leaves, or flowers was a
violation. Under the new law, possession of four or more ounces of marijuana is a Class C felony, one to four ounces is a Class B misdemeanor, and less
than one ounce remains a violation. For marijuana product, possession of
at least one-quarter ounce is a Class C felony, while less than one-quarter
ounce is a Class B misdemeanor.
>>South Dakota SB 70 adjusts the state’s offense classification structure.
First, it increases the number of felony grand theft classes from two to
five. These changes result in a lower penalty for theft of property valued
under $5,000 and an increased penalty for theft of property valued over
$100,000. Second, SB 70 downgrades the felony level for minor drug crimes.
Possession and use are both reduced from a Class 4 felony to a Class 5 or 6
felony, depending on the substance. (The impact is to reduce the maximum
sentence.) At the same time, this law increases the felony level for trafficking, from Class 4 to Class 3, where the offender possesses items indicative
of large-scale drug dealing. Finally, SB 70 mandates that most Class 5 and
6 felonies carry a presumptive sentence of probation. A judge may depart
from this presumptive sentence only if he or she finds that aggravating
circumstances are present that pose a significant risk to public safety.

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RECALIBRATING JUSTICE: A REVIEW OF 2013 STATE SENTENCING AND CORRECTIONS TRENDS

>>Vermont S 1 creates a Criminal Offense Classification Working Group to
review Vermont’s sentencing structure and develop a system of graduated
liability and punishment. The absence of felony classifications in Vermont’s
current sentencing scheme provides judges little guidance regarding the
relationship between the seriousness of the offense and the appropriate
sanction, resulting in a lack of uniformity in sentencing. The law also creates a felony embezzlement threshold of $100.
>>Washington SB 5892 reduces the maximum sentencing range for certain
drug offenders. Low-level drug offenders with three to five prior felonies
may now be sentenced to a maximum of 12 months rather than 18. This law
precludes the possibility that these offenders will serve a sentence in prison, which, as a rule, requires a sentence of more than 12 months.

VERA INSTITUTE OF JUSTICE

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MARIJUANA DECRIMINALIZATION INITIATIVES
Following the passage of 2012 ballot initiatives in Colorado and Washington to legalize marijuana possession for
personal use, there was substantial legislative activity in 2013 focused on reducing or eliminating penalties for the
possession of small quantities of marijuana.a Commonly referred to as “decriminalization,” these reforms convert
possession of small quantities of marijuana with no intent to distribute from a felony or misdemeanor to a civil violation that is typically punishable only by a fine. At least 19 states and the District of Columbia considered bills in 2013
that would have either decriminalized or legalized this conduct, but only one—Vermont—enacted law.b
On a municipal level, a number of localities passed marijuana legalization measures in November 2013. Voters in
three Michigan cities voted to legalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana. A ballot measure in Ferndale,
Michigan passed with nearly 70 percent support while measures in Jackson and Lansing passed with approximately
60 percent support. Meanwhile, in Portland, Maine voters passed an ordinance decriminalizing possession of less
than 2.5 ounces of marijuana by those ages 21 and over.c
Additionally, twenty states proposed bills legalizing medical marijuana. However, only two—Illinois and New Hampshire—adopted these bills as law.d
Vermont H 200 decriminalizes possession of up to one ounce of marijuana and up to five grams of hashish, treating
it instead as a civil violation punishable by a fine. For those ages 21 and older, possession of under an ounce remains
a civil violation no matter how many subsequent offenses are entered. The law also adds a presumption of diversion
for certain first-time possession offenders in which charges will be dismissed or expunged if a defendant completes
a community-based program or stays out of trouble for a specified period. Municipalities are permitted to regulate
the use of marijuana in public places with fines collected used to fund diversion and drug enforcement programs.
H 200 had the support of Vermont’s governor, along with a number of senior law enforcement officials.e Governor
Peter Shumlin, in particular, based his support on the lesser danger of marijuana relative to other drugs, stating that
“[o]ur limited resources should be focused on reducing abuse and addiction of opiates like heroin and meth rather
than cracking down on people for having very small amounts of marijuana.”f
a
For detailed information regarding the Colorado and Washington initiatives, see Governance Studies at Brookings, Q&A: Legal Marijuana in
Colorado and Washington (Washington, DC: Brookings Institute, May 2013),
http://www.brookings.edu/research/papers/2013/05/21-legal-marijuana-colorado-washington (accessed July 8, 2014).
b
Marijuana reform bills were considered in the 2013 legislative sessions of Alabama, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts,
Michigan, Missouri, New Mexico, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Nevada, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Vermont, and the
District of Columbia. See Phillip Smith, “Is Your State Trying to Reform It’s [sic] Marijuana Laws in 2013?,” The Weed Blog, May 4, 2013,
http://www.theweedblog.com/is-your-state-trying-to-reform-its-marijuana-laws-in-2013/ (accessed July 8, 2014); and Chris Chester, “Bill to Legalize,
Tax Marijuana Introduced In D.C. Council,” WAMU American University Radio, Sept. 18, 2013, http://wamu.org/news/13/09/18/bill_to_legalize_tax_
marijuana_introduced_in_dc_council (accessed July 8, 2014).
c
See Dan Frosch, “Measures to Legalize Marijuana Are Passed,” NY Times, November 6, 2013.
d
Bills were introduced in Alabama, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New York,
North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. See Marijuana Policy Project, State-By-State
Medical Marijuana Laws 2013: How to Remove the Threat of Arrest (Washington, DC: Marijuana Policy Project, 2013), 13, App. L.
e
Marijuana Policy Project, “Vermont,” http://www.mpp.org/states/vermont/ (accessed July 8, 2014).
f
Office of the Governor, “Gov. Shumlin Signs Bill Decriminalizing Possession of Limited Amounts of Marijuana,” press release (Montpelier: State of
Vermont, June 6, 2013), http://governor.vermont.gov/gov-shumlin-signs-marijuana-decriminalization (accessed July 8, 2014).

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EXPANDING ACCESS TO EARLY RELEASE MECHANISMS
The size of the prison population is a function of the number of people entering
the system and how long they stay.18 In addition to enacting sentencing
reform, which may reduce the number of people entering prison and the
lengths of sentences, several states sought to implement mechanisms for the
safe, earlier release of offenders already in custody. Supported by research
demonstrating that recidivism rates are no higher among prisoners whose
release is accelerated and that good time credits improve institutional safety
and reentry outcomes, some states expanded the availability of good time
credits in order to give prisoners opportunities to shorten their terms in custody
by complying with certain conditions or participating in programs such as
education and treatment.19 Other states advanced parole eligibility dates for
certain nonviolent offenders or created a mechanism by which a court or
facility superintendent can identify offenders whose earlier release would help
advance their rehabilitation.
>>Louisiana HB 59 increases the maximum amount of good time credit for
participation in treatment and rehabilitation programs—such as basic
education, job skills training, and therapeutic programs—from 250 to 360
days. This amends a decision made two years earlier that decreased the cap
on good time credits from 540 to 250 days.
>>Louisiana HB 442 creates a substance abuse conditional release program.
The Department of Corrections is authorized to release a first- or secondtime drug offender with no prior violent crimes before the end of his or her
sentence. The offender must have served at least two years of the sentence
and be within one year of scheduled release. Upon release, the offender must
participate in a two-to-four-month addiction disorder treatment program.
>>New Hampshire HB 224 authorizes a sentencing court to recommend, or
the superintendent of a county correctional facility to allow, the release
of any person in a local correctional institution for the purpose of working, obtaining work, performing community service, or participating in a
home confinement or day reporting program, if those programs exist at the
facility. If a superintendent decides that the release of a certain offender
would be conducive to his or her rehabilitation and orders it, whether or
not the court has recommended it, the superintendent is required to notify
the court and prosecutor. At the request of the prosecutor, a hearing may
be scheduled. The superintendent’s decision for release will stand unless,
following the hearing, the court orders otherwise.
>>North Dakota HB 1115 makes parole review automatic for eligible inmates.
Previously, inmates had to apply to the Department of Corrections and
Rehabilitation in order to be considered for parole.

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>>West Virginia SB 371 provides that nonviolent offenders be released from
prison six months before their calculated release dates and remain under
post-release supervision for this time period subject to electronic or GPS
monitoring. The court must order this early release at the time of sentencing, upon a finding that it would be in the interests of justice, rehabilitation,
and public safety.20
>>West Virginia SB 423 allows offenders serving six-month jail sentences to
earn sentence reductions by participating in rehabilitative programs addressing issues such as substance abuse, anger management, parenting, domestic
violence, and life skills training. Each program completed reduces the sentence by five days and an individual may participate in no more than six
programs, for a maximum total reduction of 30 days. These time credits were
previously available only to those serving sentences exceeding six months.

Expanding or strengthening
community corrections
In conjunction with efforts to reduce levels of incarceration, state policymakers in
2013 also aimed to expand or strengthen community-based responses to crime.
Driven in part by research showing that such responses can be less costly and more
effective than incarceration, legislators passed laws that created new types of community supervision, made existing sentencing options available to more offenders,
and otherwise improved the practice of community supervision. 21 State laws enacted in 2013 accomplished one or more of the following: (1) increased options for defendants to be diverted from the criminal justice system if they stay out of trouble
for a certain period of time or successfully complete a community-based treatment
or program; (2) expanded community-based sentencing options; (3) expanded the
availability of problem-solving courts; (4) required graduated responses to violations of supervision conditions; or (5) increased the use of incentives in community
supervision.

INCREASING DIVERSION OPTIONS
Diverting individuals away from the criminal justice system can significantly
reduce the risk of recidivism and improve mental health and substance abuse
outcomes.22 Generally speaking, “diversion” is an alternative to traditional criminal case processing through which charges will be dismissed (or expunged) if
the defendant completes a community-based program (often involving both
supervision and treatment).23 In 2013, at least six states authorized the creation
or expansion of diversion programs or strengthened the infrastructure supporting existing programs.

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RECALIBRATING JUSTICE: A REVIEW OF 2013 STATE SENTENCING AND CORRECTIONS TRENDS

>>Alabama HB 494 authorizes district attorneys to establish pretrial diversion
programs in their judicial circuits. The law sets out baseline eligibility criteria,
permitting participation by defendants charged with misdemeanors, traffic
offenses, property crimes, most drug crimes, and other offenses within
prescribed limits. Defendants must apply to the program and admission is
granted at the discretion of the district attorney.24
>>Arkansas HB 1470 authorizes each judicial district to establish a preadjudication probation program. The structure, method, and operation of
the program is to be determined by the individual districts. Expungement
and dismissal are available at completion of the program upon
recommendation of the prosecuting attorney and a determination by the
judge that it is appropriate in light of the participant’s criminal history.
Individuals charged with crimes of violence, offenses requiring sex offender
registration, and crimes involving victims under age 18 or over age 64 are
ineligible. Also excluded are holders of commercial driver’s licenses and
learner’s permits charged with certain traffic offenses.
>>Colorado HB 1156 standardizes both new and previously established
diversion programs by (1) setting the maximum length of a program to
two years; (2) detailing the factors district attorneys must consider when
accepting or excluding a defendant from a diversion program; (3) mandating—and setting minimum requirements for—diversion agreements
between defendants and a program; and (4) outlining procedures and
consequences for both failure and successful completion.25 HB 1156 seeks to
revive previously underutilized diversion options.26

>>Colorado SB 250 introduces leniency into the diversion program by granting judges discretion to keep drug offenders in diversion after a violation
of the program terms. Previously, judges had to revoke participation in the
deferred judgment program and impose a sentence after any violation.
Judges who elect to keep an offender on diversion may impose additional
conditions to address the violation and enhance the likelihood of success.
>>Illinois HB 3010 creates a new sentencing option—“Second Chance Probation”—which allows certain first-time nonviolent felony defendants to be
sentenced to probation with no judgment entered upon pleading or being
found guilty. The charges are dismissed after successful completion of probation, leaving the offender with no felony record. Eligible defendants are
those charged with Class 3 or 4 offenses involving drugs, theft, and destruction of property. The probationary period must be at least two years.
>>New Jersey A 3598 allows defendants charged with non-drug misdemeanors, such as trespassing and shoplifting, to participate in the state’s misde-

VERA INSTITUTE OF JUSTICE

17

meanor court conditional dismissal program, which was previously available only to those charged with drug-related misdemeanor offenses. Upon
successful completion of the program, charges are dismissed and individuals may apply to have their records expunged six months after dismissal.27
>>Oregon HB 2627 permits those who complete a DUI diversion program to
have their charges dismissed even if fees and restitution (less than $500)
are not fully paid. Any remaining fees and restitution are converted into
civil judgment debt, which survives dismissal of the criminal charges but
does not put the defendant at risk of conviction solely due to unpaid fees
and restitution.

EXPANDING COMMUNITY-BASED SENTENCING OPTIONS
Incarceration can be reserved as a “last resort” only if effective community-based
sentencing options are available. In turn, effective community-based supervision
is possible only if programs and services that address the identified needs of supervisees—such as those related to housing, employment, education, substance
abuse treatment, and family engagement or support—exist and have adequate
capacity. Such support is critical to reducing recidivism and strengthening the
communities most affected by crime and the large numbers of people returning
from prison.28 In 2013, some states created new community-based sentences, including the use of home detention as an alternative to incarceration, while others
expanded the pool of offenders, especially among certain drug offenders, eligible
for community-based sentencing.
>>Illinois SB 1854 grants county sheriffs the discretion to substitute electronic
home detention (EHD) for a jail term for appropriate offenders in their
custody, unless the sentencing order specifies that the sentence must be
served in a county correctional facility. Some serious offenses are excluded
from EHD eligibility, including murder, sexual assault, drug conspiracy, and
some firearms offenses.
>>Louisiana HB 442 creates a substance abuse probation program for defendants charged with felony drug possession of, or possession with intent to
distribute, less than 28 grams of a Schedule 1, 2, 3, or 4 substance, or those
charged with possession with intent to distribute less than one pound of
marijuana. Defendants who have prior violent convictions or who have previously participated in a drug diversion program are ineligible. A judge may
suspend the sentence and impose probation if the prosecutor consents and
the judge finds that the defendant has a drug addiction, is likely to respond
to treatment, and does not pose a threat to the community.

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RECALIBRATING JUSTICE: A REVIEW OF 2013 STATE SENTENCING AND CORRECTIONS TRENDS

>>Oregon HB 3194 repeals the ban on probation for certain repeat drug
offenders.29 The repeal will sunset in 10 years.
>>Texas SB 1173 provides an additional sentencing option for defendants
convicted of state jail felonies—a class of felonies that is punishable by
up to two years in state jail. Judges may now split the sentence and order
a period of jail confinement followed by community supervision for
the remainder of the term. The law also requires supervision officers to
make recommendations in pre-sentence reports regarding conditions of
supervision for those charged with state jail felonies.
>>Vermont H 530 directs the Joint Committee on Corrections Oversight to
develop a proposal to increase the use of home detention and confinement
as an alternative to incarceration. The committee must consider establishing
an electronic monitoring unit, determining eligibility for those charged with
nonviolent misdemeanors, and revising bail and pretrial release conditions.
>>West Virginia SB 371 creates a new drug treatment program for felony drug
offenders who (1) are determined by a standardized risk and needs assessment to be at high risk to re-offend and in high need of drug treatment and
(2) would otherwise be incarcerated. Participants who violate the conditions of treatment supervision are subject to up to 30 days of incarceration.
Drug offenders whose felonies involved firearms, a minor victim, or violence against a person are ineligible.

EXPANDING THE AVAILABILITY OF PROBLEM-SOLVING
COURTS
Over the past two and a half decades, problem-solving courts (also known as
treatment or specialty courts) have become an important feature of the criminal justice system. These courts are special dockets that focus on a targeted
segment of the offender population—such as those with distinct needs, including drug addiction, mental illness, or homelessness, or individuals involved
in prostitution or who are veterans. There are also reentry courts that offer an
alternative approach to traditional post-release supervision, and whose goal is
to help facilitate successful transition of offenders back into the community.30
Problem-solving courts offer defendants intensive judge-led supervision using
an interdisciplinary team of professionals, which often includes a court
coordinator, prosecuting attorney, defense attorney, treatment provider, case
manager, probation officer, and law enforcement representative.31 These programs are focused on providing safe and effective interventions, treatment,
services, and supervision to eligible defendants in the community—as opposed
to in jail or prison—and, in particular, mental health courts acknowledge that
behavioral progress occurs along a continuum.32

VERA INSTITUTE OF JUSTICE

19

Continuing a trend from previous years, state legislatures in 2013 authorized
or encouraged the creation of new types of problem-solving courts or expanded
existing forms in new jurisdictions; new laws also formalized the problemsolving court system by establishing rules and standards or centralized control
over all problem-solving dockets. In addition to veterans treatment courts—
with a number of legislative resolutions urging their creation—there was also
notable interest in prostitution diversion.33
>>Illinois SB 1872 permits those charged with prostitution to be admitted into
a mental health court program. The law directs programs to partner with
advocates, survivors, and service providers.
>>Indiana HB 1016 authorizes the use of problem-solving courts as a condition of a misdemeanor sentence. In addition, an offender may now be
referred to a problem-solving court by a county sheriff or the Indiana Department of Corrections.
>>Louisiana SB 71, also known as the Mental Health Court Treatment Act,
authorizes each district to create a specialized mental health court for
defendants charged with drug- or alcohol-related crimes. Defendants who
have been diagnosed with a mental illness may be admitted to a mental
health court upon consent of the prosecutor and the defendant. Upon
successful completion of treatment and probation, the conviction may be
set aside and the charges dismissed. A defendant is ineligible if, during the
previous ten years exclusive of any time spent incarcerated, he or she has
committed murder, sexual assault, armed robbery, arson, stalking, or any
crime of violence where a gun was fired.
>>Michigan HB 4694 is part of a package of laws which provides a framework
by which judicial circuits may establish and run mental health courts.34 Spe-

cifically, this law permits circuit or district courts to establish mental health
courts and defines the essential structure and characteristics to which they
must adhere, including the types of services they should provide. The law
allows courts to establish general eligibility requirements, including accepting individuals who have previously been placed on probation, participated
in a similar program, or who have had criminal proceedings against them deferred. However, the law excludes violent offenders from admission. The law
also requires as a condition for admission that an eligible individual complete
a pre-admission screening and evaluation assessment.

>>Missouri SB 118 authorizes circuit courts to establish veterans treatment
courts. These courts combine judicial supervision, drug testing, and substance abuse and mental health treatment and are available for military
veterans or current military personnel with a substance abuse problem

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RECALIBRATING JUSTICE: A REVIEW OF 2013 STATE SENTENCING AND CORRECTIONS TRENDS

and/or mental illness. The law requires such courts to establish eligibility
criteria in consultation with participating district attorneys. Upon successful completion of the treatment program, the charges, petition, or penalty
against a participant may be dismissed, reduced, or modified.
>>Oregon HB 3194 directs the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission to prepare
evidence-based standards for specialty courts that will be cost-effective,
reduce recidivism, and target medium- and high-risk offenders when possible. The commission will also serve as a clearinghouse and information
center for best practices for specialty courts.
>>South Dakota SB 70 establishes and directs an advisory council to design
the framework and criteria for eligibility for drug courts, and it authorizes
the creation of a drug court in any court with jurisdiction over criminal
cases. The law also requires judges to attend training on the use of
validated risk and needs and behavioral health assessments, as well as
other evidence-based practices.
>>Texas SB 462 introduces greater executive and legislative control over
specialty courts. For example, a specialty court is eligible to receive state
funding only if it registers with the governor’s office and complies with
recommended best practices.
>>Texas SB 484 creates a diversion program for those charged with prostitution offenses. The program must provide information, counseling, and
services relating to sexually transmitted diseases, mental health, substance
abuse, and sex addiction. The prosecutor must consent to a defendant’s
participation in the program.
>>Washington SB 5797 specifies that any jurisdiction may create a specialty
court. At the time the law was enacted there were at least 74 operational
specialty courts in Washington State. The new law also encourages the
Washington Supreme Court to research and adopt rules that promote compliance with best practices.
>>West Virginia SB 371 requires every judicial district to establish a drug court
by July 1, 2016.

VERA INSTITUTE OF JUSTICE

21

REQUIRING GRADUATED RESPONSES TO VIOLATIONS OF
SUPERVISION CONDITIONS
Revocations from community supervision account for a significant portion of
prison admissions in many states.35 Sending offenders back to prison for violating
supervision conditions—particularly for so-called technical violations such as
failing a drug test or missing appointments—can be an expensive and ineffective
means of dealing with offender misconduct. Often, the incarcerated technical violator is not at high risk of re-offending and spending time in jail or prison can increase the risk of future offending, rather than decrease it.36 In 2013, several states
adopted laws that provide judges and supervision officers a range of options to
match the severity of the penalty to the type and scope of the violation.
>>Kansas HB 2170 codifies graduated sanctions for violations of probation
by probationers convicted of a crime or participating in drug abuse treatment programs.37 For example, if the original offense was a felony, the court

may impose the following graduated sanctions, starting with the first and
moving to the next at each subsequent violation: (1) continuation or modification of the conditions of release; (2) imprisonment in jail for no more than
six days per month for three months, imposed only in two-day or three-day
consecutive periods; (3) imprisonment for 120 days; (4) imprisonment for
180 days; and (5) revocation of probation and restoration of the original
sentence. This law also gives probation officers the authority to use these
same sanctions provided that the offender has previously waived the right
to appear before a judge.

>>South Dakota SB 70 establishes two HOPE pilot programs, one for violations of parole and the other, probation. Each HOPE pilot must be monitored
and evaluated for its effect on public safety. The state’s supreme court is
also directed to establish eligibility rules for those at high risk of recidivism.
SB 70 requires the use of graduated sanctions—including written reprimands, additional drug testing, community service, and house arrest—
when responding to parole and probation violations.
>>West Virginia SB 371 authorizes judges, the parole board, and parole officers
to impose periods of “shock” incarceration in response to technical violations of probation or parole. An offender may be sentenced to a term of
incarceration of up to 60 days for a first violation of probation or parole
and up to 120 days for a second violation, and probation or parole may be
revoked only on the third technical violation.

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RECALIBRATING JUSTICE: A REVIEW OF 2013 STATE SENTENCING AND CORRECTIONS TRENDS

HOPE PROGRAMS
In 2004, in an effort to increase the rate of success of probationers,
Hawaii instituted a groundbreaking program called Hawaii’s Opportunity
Probation with Enforcement (HOPE).a HOPE targets offenders who are at
high risk of failure and features swift, certain, and short jail sanctions for
every violation (such as failed drug tests or skipped probation meetings).
The program also conducts frequent, random drug testing and imposes
drug treatment if an offender tests positive or an offender requests treatment. An offender is required to appear before the court each and every
time he or she violates a condition of supervision.
HOPE has reduced re-arrest rates, drug use, and probation revocations,
which in turn has reduced Hawaii’s overall level of incarceration.b An evaluation of the Washington Intensive Supervision Program, which is modeled on HOPE, showed similarly promising results.c All told, at least 18
states have started HOPE programs.d

a
Prior to this program, the failure rate of those on probation was close to 40 percent. See Vera
Institute of Justice, More Than the Sum of Its Parts: Why Hawaii’s Opportunity Probation with
Enforcement (HOPE) Program Works (New York: Vera Institute of Justice, 2010).
b
Ibid; see also Angela Hawken and Mark Kleiman, Managing Drug Involved Probationers with
Swift and Certain Sanctions: Evaluating Hawaii’s HOPE (Washington DC: National Institute of
Justice, 2009).
c
See Angela Hawken and Mark Kleiman, Washington Intensive Supervision Program:
Evaluation Report (Seattle, WA: Seattle City Council, 2011),
http://www.seattle.gov/council/burgess/attachments/2011wisp_draft_report.pdf.
d
Tracy Wholf, “Innovative justice program spurs similar models across the U.S.,”
http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/innovative-justice-program-sweeping-the-usa/
(accessed on February 10, 2014).

INCREASING USE OF INCENTIVES IN COMMUNITY
SUPERVISION
Research has demonstrated that positive reinforcement and the use of incentives are components of effective behavior modification.38 In 2013, at least three
states passed laws that offer offenders on probation or parole earned discharge
or other benefits if they comply with the conditions of their supervision. By
awarding credits and discharging those who have been consistently compliant,
community supervision departments can focus resources on offenders who
pose the greatest risk to public safety. Other states, such as Colorado and Idaho,
passed bills that award compliant offenders with an offense downgrade in order to mitigate negative consequences that may flow from a felony conviction.

VERA INSTITUTE OF JUSTICE

23

>>Colorado SB 250 requires that a felony conviction for certain low-level drug
offenses (particularly possession) be vacated in favor of a misdemeanor
conviction if an offender successfully completes probation or another
community-based sentence. The measure is designed as an incentive for
offenders to remain compliant and to reduce the negative consequences
of a felony conviction. The provision does not apply to offenders who have
previously been convicted of two or more felony drug crimes or any crime
of violence.
>>Idaho S 1151 provides a mechanism by which a felony conviction may be
downgraded to a misdemeanor after successful completion of probation. A
prosecutor’s consent is required if fewer than five years have passed since
discharge from probation and is always required if the felony was a serious
offense, such as robbery, kidnapping, and certain offenses involving assault.
A petition to downgrade may be granted if the individual has no intervening felony convictions, no pending charges, and if doing so is compatible
with the public interest.
>>Kansas HB 2170 permits low-risk offenders under community supervision
to seek a discharge after 12 months if they have complied with all conditions and paid all restitution. For those on probation, the application must
be granted unless the judge identifies substantial and compelling reasons
why it should be rejected. For those under post-release supervision, approval is not presumptive and remains at the discretion of the prisoner review
board. HB 2170 also ends the previous practice of adding the amount of
earned time credit that reduced a person’s custodial sentence to the time
spent on post-release supervision (except for sex offenders).
>>Oregon HB 3194 creates a new earned discharge program for felony probationers whereby probationers who are serving more than six months and
comply with the terms of their supervision may earn up to a 50 percent
reduction in their probation period.
>>South Dakota SB 70 creates a program of earned discharge credits for offenders (except sex offenders) on probation and parole. Any person with a felony
probation term of at least six months receives a credit of at least 15 days for
each month that the terms of supervision are met. Parolees may earn credits
each calendar month equal to the number of days in the month.

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RECALIBRATING JUSTICE: A REVIEW OF 2013 STATE SENTENCING AND CORRECTIONS TRENDS

Implementing risk and needs
assessments
Research has increasingly clarified that the cornerstone of effective correctional
intervention is an assessment of both an individual’s risk of re-offending and
the personal characteristics that must be addressed (called needs) to reduce
that risk.39 As such, state legislators are recognizing the importance of using
validated assessment tools at various points during the criminal justice process:
(1) at the pretrial stage, in order for defendants to receive treatment or programming, if needed; (2) for sentence planning, in order to ensure that the level of
supervision and type of intervention are tailored to individual offenders’ risk
and needs; and (3) in preparation for reentry, to identify the type of transitional
or reentry services offenders will need and the level of supervision required
post-release.
>>Colorado SB 250 requires Colorado’s county-run probation departments
to use a validated risk and needs assessment instrument to assess all
individuals sentenced to probation. The law also mandates that the
assessment results be used to determine placement in standard or intensive
supervision. Intensive supervision is reserved for the offenders at the highest
risk of recidivism.
>>Oklahoma HB 1109 allows defendants to undergo a risk, mental health,
and substance abuse assessment and receive appropriate assistance based
on the results at any point after the initial appearance before a judge.
Previously, this was only available to offenders after conviction but before
sentencing.
>>South Dakota SB 70 mandates the use of a validated risk and needs
assessment for parole and felony probation supervision so that officers can
tailor supervision and interventions to individual offenders’ risk and needs
and focus resources on moderate- and high-risk offenders.
>>Texas SB 213 requires the Department of Criminal Justice (1) to perform
a risk and needs assessment for each offender within the adult criminal
justice system; (2) identify available transition services and the inmates
eligible to participate; (3) coordinate the provision of reentry services; and
(4) evaluate the outcomes of offenders who utilize them. The risk and needs
assessment must later be repeated by the community supervision department when an offender is placed under community supervision.

VERA INSTITUTE OF JUSTICE

25

>>Washington SB 5034 appropriates nearly $25 million in both 2014 and 2015
to devise and institute a comprehensive programming plan for offenders under community supervision and in prison. The plan must prioritize
evidence-based programs that use a risk-needs-responsivity model and
have measurable outcomes. The law also specifically appropriates money to
expand a current risk-needs-responsivity model to include cognitive behavioral therapy at three facilities.
>>West Virginia SB 371 requires probation officers to conduct risk and needs
assessments of offenders under their supervision and to structure supervision in accordance with the assessment results. The law also expands the
use of risk and substance abuse assessment tools for parolees.

Supporting the reentry of
offenders into the community
Approximately 581,000 men and women were released from state custody into
their communities in 2012.40 Former offenders returning to their families and
communities can face a range of acute challenges, such as housing, employment, family reunification, education, and behavioral health issues.41 Supporting the transition from prison or jail back into the community is critical to
reducing ex-offenders’ risk of recidivism and to improving public safety.42 Given
that employment, for example, is strongly associated with a reduced likelihood
of re-offending, employment services—whether in-prison programs to build
occupational skills or transitional work programs that ensure employment after
release—can be an effective tool for reducing recidivism.43
In 2013, state legislatures signaled an increasing awareness of and willingness to support ex-offenders making this transition. First, states passed laws
that mitigate the post-sentence penalties, disqualifications, or disabilities—collectively known as “collateral consequences”—which ex-offenders suffer as a
result of their convictions. Second, many states focused on helping ex-offenders transition back into the community by mandating more in-prison support
prior to release, developing transitional leave programs in which inmates are
moved into intensive supervision in the community just prior to release, or
providing services that connect ex-offenders to necessary resources such as
state-issued identification or housing resources. Some states made it easier to
access discharge accounts—money reserved for prisoners upon release, and
typically taken from their wages or commissary accounts. Others took steps to
alleviate the burden of court-imposed fines or other criminal justice debt, such
as restitution payments or user fees (fees for jail stays or probation supervision)
by substituting community service.44

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RECALIBRATING JUSTICE: A REVIEW OF 2013 STATE SENTENCING AND CORRECTIONS TRENDS

MITIGATING COLLATERAL CONSEQUENCES
The civil sanctions, or collateral consequences, triggered by a criminal conviction—but not part of the sentence imposed by a judge—are many and
far-reaching. They include legal penalties or disadvantages that are imposed
automatically upon conviction; discretionary disqualifications that an administrative agency, civil court, or official is authorized but not required to impose
on a convicted person; and informal disabilities or disqualifications imposed by
private actors, which stem not from the express operation of the law but from
the social stigma suffered by individuals with a criminal conviction record.
These sanctions include presumptive ineligibility for public housing for certain
types of offenders, ineligibility for food stamps or federal cash assistance, exclusion from certain employment and occupational licenses, restrictions on voting
and other forms of participation in civic life, exclusion from student loans, and
restrictions affecting family life (e.g., restrictions on adoptions). The mere
existence of a conviction on an individual’s record and the ability of others to
obtain the record are challenging issues. Employers and property owners
frequently obtain background checks on prospective workers and tenants,
and applications are often denied if criminal records (or even arrests that were
never prosecuted) are found. More than 90 percent of employers in the United
States run background checks on potential employees.45 At a time when con-

viction and arrest records are readily available online or easily obtained from
specialized report providers, it is even more difficult for former offenders to find
the employment, housing, and other services they need to transition safely and
successfully back into the community.
There is a growing awareness that collateral consequences hinder reentry,
exacerbate recidivism (creating more victims), are too broadly applied (resulting in arbitrary and unnecessary restrictions), and have a disparate impact on
people of color.46 In 2013, a number of states sought to alleviate collateral consequences by (1) expanding options for sealing or expunging criminal records;
(2) clarifying the effect of record sealing and expungement; and (3) limiting the
consequences of a criminal record.

EXPANDING OPTIONS FOR SEALING OR EXPUNGING
CRIMINAL RECORDS
By sealing or expunging a criminal record, it is effectively erased from the
public record and therefore unavailable to individuals and private report providers. In 2013, several states introduced or expanded expungement or sealing
remedies, continuing a trend that started in 2012.47
>>Arkansas HB 1638 establishes the Comprehensive Criminal Record Sealing
Act of 2013. This law repeals individual provisions concerning the sealing of
criminal records and replaces them with one consolidated and simplified

VERA INSTITUTE OF JUSTICE

27

record sealing remedy. In so doing, the law streamlines all terminology
and simplifies record sealing procedures. Some substantive changes were
made as well, including extending record sealing eligibility to Class C and D
felonies and to those found guilty at trial. (Previously, only those who plead
guilty or no contest could have records sealed.) Additionally, offenders with
one prior felony conviction may now petition for record sealing, and arrest
records may be sealed one year after arrest if no charges are brought.
The law directs that misdemeanor records are to be sealed unless the court
is presented with clear and convincing evidence why they should not be
sealed. Conversely, felony records will only be sealed if the offender can
present clear and convincing evidence that they should be sealed.
>>Colorado HB 1082 expands the right to expunge records of juvenile delinquency. The law allows a juvenile offender, a parent, or a court-appointed
guardian to initiate expungement proceedings (previously, only the court
or probation/parole departments could do so). The law also removes the
ban on expungement for juveniles who committed an offense that would
have been a crime of violence if committed by an adult. In addition, the law
makes expungement available upon completion of a diversion program
or dismissal. The law also lowers the post-probation waiting period before
requesting expungement from three years to one year; the maximum waiting period for repeat offenders is lowered from 10 years to five years.
>>Colorado SB 123 extends record sealing eligibility to those convicted of
petty offenses and municipal violations.
>> Colorado SB 229 provides that records of charges that were dismissed for
reasons other than a deferred prosecution or multi-case prosecution must be
sealed if the petition contains facts sufficient to support a qualifying situation.
>>Illinois HB 3061 expands eligibility for record sealing to 10 additional Class
3 and 4 felonies. Previously, the only felony offenses eligible for record
sealing were Class 4 felony drug possession and Class 4 felony prostitution.
In deciding whether to seal records, judges may consider specific collateral
consequences the individual is facing, the person’s age and employment
history, and the strength of the evidence supporting the conviction.
>> Indiana HB 1482 authorizes an expungement remedy for offenders convicted
of certain misdemeanors and low-level felonies, provided the offender completes the original sentence and remains a law-abiding citizen for the entirety
of a specified waiting period, ranging from five to 10 years depending on the
severity of the offense. A person may file only one petition for expungement
in a lifetime.

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RECALIBRATING JUSTICE: A REVIEW OF 2013 STATE SENTENCING AND CORRECTIONS TRENDS

>>Nevada SB 169 reduces the waiting period from seven years to five years
before a person convicted of a gross misdemeanor may petition a court
to seal his or her criminal records. The five-year period begins when the
offender is released from custody or discharged from probation.
>>Utah HB 33 adds felony drug possession to the list of offenses that may be
expunged. An offender must wait five years, be free of all illegal drug use,
and be successfully managing any addiction. The law also excludes drug
possession charges from a person’s criminal history when deciding eligibility to have other crimes expunged. The charge may not be expunged if it
is the person’s third felony possession conviction or fifth overall possession
conviction. HB 33 also expands the impact of a pardon such that it exempts
the person from punishment as well as restores any rights and privileges
forfeited by or because of a criminal conviction. This law requires the Board
of Pardons and Parole to issue an expungement order at the time of the
pardon and makes clear that this order has the same legal effect as if issued
by a court.

CLARIFYING THE EFFECT OF RECORD SEALING AND
EXPUNGEMENT
In many states, it is not clear what legal effect expungement or record sealing
has in terms of alleviating collateral consequences, and the process by which
offenders may apply for the remedy is confusing. In 2013, several states passed
laws to clarify and strengthen the legal effect of available expungement and
record sealing policies.
>>Arkansas HB 1638 acknowledges the difficulty and confusion surrounding record sealing terminology, eligibility, and procedures and attempts to
provide clear information as to when and how a person may pursue record
sealing. The law provides that since a sealed record means that the underlying conduct did not occur as a matter of law, an individual with a sealed
record may state that the conduct never occurred and that the record does
not exist. However, sealed records may still be used for a determination of
offender status in the event of a future crime.
>>Colorado SB 123 clarifies that an applicant may not be denied housing or
employment based solely on a refusal to disclose sealed conviction records.
SB 123 also requires probation and parole officers to give notice at the final
supervision meeting with offenders convicted of certain crimes that they
have the right to have their criminal record sealed and that doing so can
alleviate certain collateral consequences. Officers must provide offenders
with a list of eligible crimes and the associated waiting periods.

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29

>>Indiana HB 1482 makes it unlawful discrimination to expel, suspend, or
refuse to employ or grant a license on the basis of an expunged conviction
or arrest record. The law specifies that an employer may only ask if an applicant has any convictions or arrests that have not been expunged. Finally,
the law makes clear that a person’s full civil rights are restored after expungement, including the rights to vote, hold public office, serve as a juror,
and own a firearm.
>>North Carolina SB 91 prohibits employers and educational institutions
from requiring the disclosure of expunged records of arrests, charges, or convictions. The law also states that a person with an expunged criminal history
record is not required to disclose any prior arrests, charges, or convictions.
Employers who violate these provisions will receive a written warning for
the first incident and a civil fine of up to $500 for each subsequent incident.
>>Texas SB 107 mandates that a criminal record subject to a nondisclosure
order may not be publicly disclosed by the court clerk.
>>Texas SB 1289 regulates companies, including online companies, that
publish mug shots or other criminal history information and charge a fee
of at least $150 to have a record modified or removed. These companies
are now required to ensure that the information they publish is accurate
and current. They must promptly investigate complaints and permanently
erase erroneous entries at no cost. Notably, the law imposes a civil penalty
on companies that publish records that have been sealed or expunged.

AMELIORATING THE CONSEQUENCES OF A CRIMINAL
RECORD
Expungement or record sealing is not available to many offenders because their
states do not offer a remedy, their offenses do not qualify, or they have not yet
satisfied other statutory criteria (e.g., a waiting period). Although these individuals may be taking significant steps to remain law-abiding and reintegrate into
society, they face major obstacles because of their criminal records. 48 Several
states in 2013 passed legislation aimed at limiting or ameliorating the collateral
consequences of a conviction. To help former offenders secure employment,
some laws—commonly known as “ban the box” initiatives—require employers
to defer any inquiry about a job applicant’s past convictions until after his or
her application has progressed to an advanced stage, such as the first or second
interview. 49 Some laws assuage the concerns of employers by shielding them
from liability in negligent hiring and inadequate supervision actions brought
solely on the basis of an employee’s criminal record. Other laws restore driving
privileges, lift bans on adoption or occupational licensing for certain classes of
offenders, or incentivize employers to hire people with criminal backgrounds.

30

RECALIBRATING JUSTICE: A REVIEW OF 2013 STATE SENTENCING AND CORRECTIONS TRENDS

BAN THE BOX
“Ban the box” initiatives—which take their name from the question on
job applications that asks the applicant to “check this box if you have
ever been convicted of a crime”—are designed to facilitate the transition
into the workplace after a conviction and encourage fair hiring practices
by encouraging employers to screen candidates based on job skills and
qualifications before looking at past convictions. In 2013, four states
passed ban the box laws, joining at least eight other states and many
cities and counties in leveling the playing field for ex-offenders.
>>California AB 218 requires all state and local agencies (except criminal justice agencies) to determine whether a job applicant meets
the minimum employment qualifications for the position before
asking about the applicant’s criminal history.
>>Maryland SB 4 prohibits state employers from asking an applicant
about any criminal history until after the applicant has been given
an opportunity for an interview. Some state positions are exempted,
such as any position in the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services or in any county sheriff’s office.
>>Minnesota SF 523/HF 690 extends the practice to private employers, who are now required to wait until after an applicant has been
selected for an interview (or, if there is no interview, after a conditional offer of employment has been made) before conducting a
criminal background check or asking about criminal history. Fines
may be imposed on employers that fail to comply. Ban the box laws
have applied to public employees in Minnesota since 2009.
>>Rhode Island SB 357 prohibits employers from asking job applicants if they have ever been arrested, charged with, or convicted
of a crime. Applicants may be asked about their prior convictions
no earlier than their first interview. Exceptions are made for law
enforcement positions and positions for which state or federal law
requires an absence of convictions.

>>Colorado SB 123 provides that a pardon from the governor waives all collateral consequences of conviction, unless otherwise noted in the pardon itself. The law also gives judges authority to issue an order of collateral relief
at the time a person is sentenced to community supervision. The judge has

VERA INSTITUTE OF JUSTICE

31

discretion to relieve almost any collateral consequence of conviction, such
as barriers to housing and employment. The only collateral consequences
the order may not relieve are those imposed by licensing requirements for
the Department of Education, the judicial branch, and law enforcement. An
individual is not eligible for this order if the offense was a crime of violence,
led to the permanent disability of the victim, or required the offender to
register as a sex offender.
>>Georgia HB 349 gives judges in drug and mental health courts the discretion to fully restore driving privileges or issue limited driving permits. Previously, a person had to wait at least one year from the date of his conviction
or plea to apply for early reinstatement, and the application was made to
the Department of Driver Services, not to the court.50
>>Indiana HB 1482 makes expunged convictions inadmissible in actions
against employers for negligent hiring.
>>Louisiana HB 219 mandates that the mere fact of a criminal record may
not disqualify someone from adopting a child. When considering whether
to approve a prospective adoption placement, a court must evaluate the
number and type of offenses and the length of time that has passed since
the most recent offense.
>>Nevada SB 169 decreases the maximum penalty for a gross misdemeanor
from one year to 364 days in order to avoid immigration consequences for
non-citizens. Previously, a gross misdemeanor could trigger deportation
proceedings because it carried a potential sentence of one year and thus
qualified as an aggravated felony under federal immigration statutes.
>>North Carolina SB 33 prohibits a licensing board from automatically denying a license on the basis of an applicant’s criminal history. A board may
make such a denial only if specifically authorized to do so by its own governing law and if a denial is warranted after considering factors, including:
the level and seriousness of the crime; the circumstances surrounding the
crime; or the nexus, if any, between the criminal conduct and the prospective duties of the applicant as a licensee. A licensing board may deny licensure to an applicant who refuses to consent to a criminal history record
check or use of fingerprints or other identifying information required by
the state or national repositories of criminal histories.
>>Rhode Island SB 358 empowers the parole board to grant “certificates of
recovery and reentry” to offenders who have met certain specified standards. The certificates help third parties, such as prospective landlords and
employers, make more informed decisions about applicants with criminal

32

RECALIBRATING JUSTICE: A REVIEW OF 2013 STATE SENTENCING AND CORRECTIONS TRENDS

records. An offender convicted of a violent crime or who has a prior felony
conviction is not eligible to receive a certificate.
>>Texas HB 798 amends the occupational licensing law so that those convicted of certain misdemeanors remain eligible to obtain licenses, unless the
license authorizes the possession of a firearm and the misdemeanor conviction was a crime of domestic violence.
>>Texas HB 1188 shields employers from liability in negligent hiring and
inadequate supervision actions brought solely on the basis of an employee’s criminal record. Now, an employer may not be sued for negligence if he
or she employs a person with a criminal record who later injures another
person or causes actionable harm, unless the employee had a relevant or
violent conviction that the employer should have known about.
>>Texas HB 1659 limits a previous provision that disqualified a person from
holding a license if he or she had received a deferred adjudication disposition in the past. Now, a license may be withheld on the basis of a deferred
adjudication disposition only if the offense required registration as a sex
offender; the conviction specifically barred receipt of a license; or a previous
deferred adjudication disposition was granted less than five years prior.
>>Texas SB 369 clarifies that information regarding a sex offender’s
employer’s name and address may not be listed publicly on the sex
offender registry.

IMPROVING REENTRY OUTCOMES
In 2013, states enacted a number of laws aimed at improving the likelihood of
success for those leaving prison. Laws created new reentry programs in-prison
and post-release; introduced transitional leave programs to help prisoners
orient themselves before full release from custody; facilitated individuals’
access to state-issued identification, housing resources, and health insurance
coverage; provided easier ways to access or to increase those funds (from
prisoners’ commissary accounts or from their wages) provided to individuals
when released from custody; promoted family connections or reunification;
and mitigated the burden of criminal justice debt by allowing those released to
meet these obligations through community service.
>>Arizona SB 1205 alters a provision concerning prisoners’ discharge accounts
that prisoners receive upon release. Previously, a percentage of a prisoner’s
wages, up to a total of 50 dollars, was deposited into a discharge account
and turned over to the individual upon release. This law raises the total to
100 dollars for all but those who are serving life sentences. Additionally,

VERA INSTITUTE OF JUSTICE

33

this law authorizes discharge account funds to be furnished with a debit or
other-stored value card.
>>Arkansas HB 1822 allows the balance of a prisoner’s commissary account to
be issued on a debit card upon release from custody. Previously, these funds
could only be conveyed by check.
>>California AB 720 provides that an inmate of a county jail may not be
terminated from state Medicaid (Medi-Cal) solely because of incarceration.
Instead, the inmate’s Medi-Cal enrollment will be suspended until release.
Additionally, the law allows county jails to enroll eligible inmates not previously enrolled, with the coverage taking effect upon release.
>>Maine HP 1032 allows an offender with unpaid fines to cover the outstanding balance by performing community service work instead of returning
to custody. If it is determined that default on payment is based on valid
reasons, such as lack of financial resources, and not contempt of the sentencing order, the fine is to be paid off at a rate of 25 dollars for every eight
hours of community service work.
>>Nebraska LB 483 commissions a pilot, family-based reentry program
for incarcerated parents, especially those with children under six years
of age. The two-year pilot must be an evidence-based program covering
parental education, child literacy, relationship skills development, and
reentry planning involving family members of the incarcerated parent. The
law explicitly refers to research that demonstraties family-based reentry
planning results in both lower recidivism for offenders and greater family
economic stability, as well as research that indicates children who have
parents involved in their lives perform better academically and socially in
school, experience fewer mental health and substance abuse issues, and are
less likely to commit serious crime.
>>Nevada SB 423 requires the director of the Department of Corrections to
provide photo identification cards to inmates upon release if the inmate
requests the card and is eligible to acquire a driver’s license or state-issued
identification card.
>>North Carolina SB 494 allows the Post-Release and Parole Commission to
impose community service on offenders who are Class F through I felons
and who have failed to pay any order for restitution, reparation, or costs
imposed as part of their sentence. The commission may not impose a community service alternative on offenders possessesing sufficient financial
resources to satisfy the order.

34

RECALIBRATING JUSTICE: A REVIEW OF 2013 STATE SENTENCING AND CORRECTIONS TRENDS

>>Oregon HB 3194 strengthens the state’s transitional leave program, which
allows inmates to participate in employment and educational programs
prior to final discharge. The law increases the maximum amount of leave
from 30 days to 90 days and mandates that the Department of Corrections
proactively assist eligible inmates in securing a placement. By increasing
the maximum amount of transitional leave, corrections professionals hope
to better prepare offenders for successful reentry.51
>>South Dakota SB 70 permits the Department of Corrections, with the
assistance of the Department of Tribal Relations, to develop a unique pilot
program which allows for the supervision of state parolees on tribal land.
Previously, due to the lack of jurisdictional authority of parole agents on
tribal lands, state parolees who are members of a local tribe could not return home to tribal land; if they did, they would be considered absconders.
The law calls for a tribal-state liaison to administer the pilot program by
employing supervision strategies tailored to tribal communities that focus
on reducing recidivism. The liaison is directed to use evidence-based practices and swift, certain, and proportionate penalties.
>>Texas HB 797 and 799 require the state to offer courses that teach relevant
and marketable skills to inmates. HB 797 requires the prison school district
to notify students enrolling in vocational programs of any rule that would
restrict them from obtaining an occupational license, including disqualification based on criminal convictions. The district must also supply statistics
on the percentage of previous students who have become licensed. HB 799
requires the district to continually assess the Texas job market and update
its vocational programs accordingly.
>>Texas SB 345 directs prison wardens to identify and encourage volunteer
and faith-based organizations to provide programs in their facilities,
including job and life skills training, literacy and education programs,
parent training, and drug and alcohol rehabilitation. Wardens are held
accountable by a requirement to submit an annual report summarizing
their efforts to identify and engage these organizations and to list the
programs offered in their facilities.
>> Texas SB 1185 directs Harris County (Houston) to conduct a pilot post-release
program for mentally ill jail inmates with the goal of reducing their rates of recidivism and re-incarceration. The law requires Harris County to provide access
to social, clinical, housing, and welfare services during the first few months
after release from jail, as this time period poses the greatest risk of re-arrest.52
>>Washington HB 1284 protects the rights of incarcerated parents by adding
incarceration to the list of good cause exceptions why the state’s child pro-

VERA INSTITUTE OF JUSTICE

35

tection agency does not have to file for termination of parental rights when
a child has been in foster care for 15 out of 22 months, and where incarceration is a major factor in why the child is in foster care. The parent must have
maintained a meaningful role in the child’s life by, for example, communicating through letters, telephone calls, or visits.
>>West Virginia SB 371 authorizes the Commissioner of Corrections to appoint a director of housing and director of employment tasked to work with
public and private entities to facilitate housing and employment opportunities for individuals released from custody. In addition, the director of
housing will work in conjunction with the parole division and the parole
board to reduce release delays due to lack of a home plan; help develop
community housing resources; and provide short-term loans to released
individuals for costs related to reentry into the community.

Making better informed
criminal justice policy
In 2013, state legislatures increased their reliance on data-driven criminal
justice policy development. First, states created independent bodies—
sentencing commissions, oversight councils, or working groups comprised of
experts and representatives of stakeholder groups from across the system—to
inform the subjects and substance of criminal justice reform. Second, some
state legislatures now require fiscal or social impact analyses of bills that
change sentencing laws or corrections policies.

EMPOWERING WORKING GROUPS TO REVIEW AND
MONITOR SENTENCING AND CORRECTIONS REFORM
Several states empowered sentencing commissions, created oversight councils,
or convened working groups. These bodies were tasked with reviewing sentencing and corrections policies; recommending changes based on evidence,
best practices, and impact analyses; and overseeing implementation of criminal
justice reform. Through the use of data and research findings, these groups
have helped states adopt more consistent and fair sentencing and corrections
policies and better allocate criminal justice resources. Some are also charged
with ongoing oversight and evaluation of enacted polices to ensure that desired
results are achieved and recommend adjustments if they are not. Some of the
reform laws passed in 2013 were products of such working groups.53
>>Colorado HB 1129 creates a resource center within the Division of Criminal
Justice to assist criminal justice agencies in expanding existing, and imple-

36

RECALIBRATING JUSTICE: A REVIEW OF 2013 STATE SENTENCING AND CORRECTIONS TRENDS

menting new, evidence-based practices to improve offender supervision
and case management.
>>Georgia HB 349 creates the Georgia Council on Criminal Justice Reform
and tasks it with conducting periodic comprehensive reviews of all aspects
of the state’s criminal justice system; monitoring the implementation of
reforms; and proposing further system changes to reduce recidivism, lower
costs, and promote public safety.
>>Idaho Senate Concurrent Resolution 128 creates a legislative committee to
advise the legislature on reducing correctional spending and improving justice system outcomes. The law directs the new committee to design policy
recommendations in consultation with experts.
>>Maryland SB 356 requires the Department of Business and Economic
Development, the Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation, and the
Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services to jointly study and
evaluate the feasibility of establishing a business development program to
provide business training for ex-offenders.
>>Mississippi HB 1231 establishes the 21-member Corrections and Criminal
Justice Task Force to undertake a comprehensive review of the state’s
corrections and criminal justice systems and make recommendations for
improvement. The task force is required to examine disparities in sentencing;
drug court, intensive supervision, and other alternatives-to-incarceration
programs; and the number of offenders incarcerated under mandatory
minimum sentencing schemes. It is required to issue findings and make
recommendations for changes in oversight, policies, practices, and laws
designed to: (1) prevent, deter, and reduce crime and violence; (2) reduce
recidivism; (3) improve cost-effectiveness; and (4) ensure the interests of
justice at every step of the criminal justice system. In doing so, the task force
must consult with state, local, and tribal government and nongovernmental
leaders, including law enforcement officials, legislators, judges, court
administrators, prosecutors, defense counsel, probation and parole
officials, criminal justice planners, criminologists, civil rights and liberties
organizations, formerly incarcerated individuals, and corrections officials.
>>Montana HB 68 establishes a statewide reentry task force whose goal is to
develop and implement reentry programs for high-risk inmates within 12
months of release from prison. It also requires the Department of Corrections
to work with the task force to examine and implement programs that will:
(1) help bring community resources into prisons to support inmate reentry
planning and preparation; (2) develop partnerships with community-based
organizations that provide needed post-release services to inmates, such

VERA INSTITUTE OF JUSTICE

37

as mental health, chemical dependency, employment, housing, healthcare,
parenting, and relationship services; (3) coordinate with community
restorative justice programs to ensure that victim concerns and restitution, as
well as other restorative justice practices, are considered during an offender’s
reentry; and (4) collect data, conduct program evaluations, and develop
findings and any recommendations about reentry and recidivism.
>>Nevada SB 395 requires the Advisory Commission on the Administration of
Justice to identify and study the provisions of existing law which impose or
authorize a collateral sanction or disqualification due to a criminal conviction and provisions allowing relief from those collateral consequences.
>>South Dakota SB 70 creates an oversight council that will monitor the
effect of wide-ranging evidence-based reforms included in other provisions
of the law.
>>Texas SB 1003 requires a third-party review of administrative segregation
practices in both adult and juvenile facilities. The review must address
topics such as admission and release from administrative segregation,
average length of stay, recidivism rates, and access to mental health, health
care substance abuse, and reentry services.

REQUIRING IMPACT STATEMENTS
State policymakers, concerned with making certain that a policy’s impact justifies its financial and social costs, are looking to calculate the cost and benefits
of specific criminal justice interventions—from incarceration to community
treatment.54 In particular, some states are mandating that such analysis be
specifically conducted for proposed criminal justice legislation.55 Other states
are also requiring analyses of how proposed criminal justice reform impacts
women and minorities.
>>Colorado SB 229 requires minority and gender impact statements to be
submitted with any proposed legislation that creates a new criminal offense or changes an element or the classification of an offense. The statement must include gender and minority population data for offenders and
victims potentially affected by the proposed legislation.
>>Oregon HB 3194 requires fiscal impact statements for all bills that modify
sentencing or corrections policy, including laws that create a new crime or
increase the length of a custodial sentence. For any such bill, the statement
must set out the 10-year fiscal impact for the state and any affected local
governments.

38

RECALIBRATING JUSTICE: A REVIEW OF 2013 STATE SENTENCING AND CORRECTIONS TRENDS

>>Oregon SB 463 requires that, upon request from one member of each major
political party, the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission must issue a racial
and ethnic impact statement for proposed legislation. The impact statement must describe the racial and ethnic impact of a piece of legislation on
the offender population and potential crime victims.
>>South Dakota SB 70 requires that a 10-year fiscal impact statement be prepared for any bill, amendment, or ballot initiative that affects correctional
populations. The statement must project the operational and capital costs
to both the state and counties.
>>Vermont S 1 creates a working group tasked with developing a criminal and
juvenile justice cost-benefit model that will be used by policymakers to assess the cost-effectiveness and net social benefit of proposed strategies and
programs. The working group is instructed to consider, among other matters, the costs incurred by victims of crime and the quality of data collection
in the criminal justice system. The model will be used to estimate the costs
related to the arrest, prosecution, defense, adjudication, and correction of
criminal and juvenile defendants, and the victimization of citizens.

Conclusion
The legislation described in this report reflects the changing views of many
Americans and their legislators about criminal behavior and the goals of sanctioning that behavior. The runaway expenditures incurred in recent years—
at the local, state, and federal levels—on ever more prison and jail beds are
increasingly hard to justify when recidivism rates remain high. The question
then becomes: if incarceration is failing to have a positive impact on as many as
50 percent of those who are released, what else might we do in order to achieve
our desired public safety aims? Some alternatives are described here: more
resources for and greater emphasis on early, community-based interventions
for those with mental illness and addiction; more services, interventions, and
education for those on probation before they advance to prison and more serious crimes; keeping more offenders in the community to receive those services
rather than sending them to prison; and providing recidivism-reduction programs for those who are incarcerated and offering incentives for participation.
The collective aim of these practical solutions should help keep our eyes on the
real prize: stronger communities with less crime and fewer victims.

VERA INSTITUTE OF JUSTICE

39

Appendix A
SENTENCING AND CORRECTIONS LEGISLATION BY STATE, 2013
ALABAMA

HB 494

ILLINOIS

HB 3010
HB 3061

ARIZONA

SB 1205

SB 1854
SB 1872

ARKANSAS

HB 1470
HB 1638

INDIANA

HB 1822

HB 1006
HB 1016
HB 1482

CALIFORNIA

AB 218
AB 720

KANSAS

HB 2170
SB 58

COLORADO

HB 1082
HB 1129

LOUISIANA

HB 59

HB 1156

HB 219

HB 1160

HB 442

SB 123

SB 71

SB 229

CONNECTICUT

SB 250

MAINE

HP 1032

SB 983

MARYLAND

HB 1396
SB 4

GEORGIA

HB 349

SB 276
SB 356

HAWAII

IDAHO

SB 68
HB 4694

MINNESOTA

SF 523/HF 690

MISSISSIPPI

HB 1231

S 1151
S. Con. Res. 128

40

MICHIGAN

RECALIBRATING JUSTICE: A REVIEW OF 2013 STATE SENTENCING AND CORRECTIONS TRENDS

MISSOURI

SB 118

TEXAS

HB 797
HB 798

MONTANA

HB 68

HB 799
HB 1188

NEBRASKA

LB 483

HB 1659
SB 107

NEVADA

SB 169

SB 213

SB 395

SB 345

SB 423

SB 369
SB 462

NEW HAMPSHIRE

HB 224

SB 484
SB 1003

NEW JERSEY

SB 1173

A 3598

SB 1185
NORTH CAROLINA

SB 33

SB 1289

SB 91
SB 494

UTAH

HB 33

STATE
NORTH DAKOTA

HB 1115

VERMONT

H 530

STATE
OKLAHOMA

HB 1109

OREGON

HB 2627

RHODE ISLAND

S1

WASHINGTON

HB 1284

HB 3194

SB 5034

SB 40

SB 5892

SB 463

SB 5797

SB 357
SB 358

SOUTH DAKOTA

H 200

WEST VIRGINIA

SB 371
SB 423

SB 70
VERA INSTITUTE OF JUSTICE

41

Appendix B
SENTENCING AND CORRECTIONS LEGISLATION BY REFORM TYPE, 2013
REDUCING PRISON POPULATIONS
AND COSTS

STATE

REPEALING
OR LIMITING
MANDATORY
PENALTIES

ALABAMA

 

ARIZONA

 

RECLASSIFYING
OFFENSES
OR ALTERING
SENTENCING
PRESUMPTIONS

EXPANDING
ACCESS TO
EARLY RELEASE
MECHANISMS

EXPANDING OR STRENGTHENING COMMUNITY CORRECTIONS

INCREASING
DIVERSION
OPTIONS

EXPANDING
COMMUNITYBASED
SENTENCING
OPTIONS

EXPANDING THE
AVAILABILITY
OF PROBLEMSOLVING COURTS

REQUIRING
GRADUATED
RESPONSES TO
VIOLATIONS

INCREASING USE
OF INCENTIVES

●
●

ARKANSAS
CALIFORNIA

 

COLORADO

●

● ●

● ●

●

●

CONNECTICUT
GEORGIA

●

HAWAII

●

IDAHO

 

ILLINOIS

●

INDIANA

●

KANSAS

●

LOUISIANA

 

●
●

●

●

●
●
●

● ●

●

●

●

MAINE
MARYLAND

 

● ●
●

MICHIGAN
MINNESOTA

 

MISSISSIPPI
MISSOURI

 

MONTANA

 

●

NEBRASKA
NEVADA
NEW HAMPSHIRE

 

NEW JERSEY

 

●
●

NORTH CAROLINA

●

NORTH DAKOTA
OKLAHOMA
OREGON

 
● 

RHODE ISLAND

 

SOUTH DAKOTA

 

TEXAS

 

● ●

●

●

●

●
●

●

●
●

●

● ●

UTAH
VERMONT

● ●

WASHINGTON

●

WEST VIRGINIA

●
●
● ●

●

●

●

NOTE: Each dot indicates when a particular type of reform is addressed in legislation. Since a bill may address multiple types of reform, a dot does necessarily indicate a discrete piece of legislation.

42

RECALIBRATING JUSTICE: A REVIEW OF 2013 STATE SENTENCING AND CORRECTIONS TRENDS

IMPLEMENTING RISK &
NEEDS ASSESSMENTS

SUPPORTING THE REENTRY OF OFFENDERS INTO THE COMMUNITY

MAKING BETTER INFORMED
CRIMINAL JUSTICE POLICY

MITIGATING COLLATERAL CONSEQUENCES
IMPLEMENTING RISK
& NEEDS ASSESSMENTS

EXPANDING OPTIONS
FOR SEALING OR
EXPUNGING CRIMINAL
RECORDS

CLARIFYING THE
EFFECT OF RECORD
SEALING AND
EXPUNGEMENT

EMPOWERING
WORKING GROUPS TO
REVIEW AND MONITOR
AMELIORATING THE
IMPROVING REENTY
SENTENCING &
CONSEQUENCES OF A
OUTCOMES
CORRECTIONS REFORM
CRIMINAL RECORD

REQUIRING
IMPACT
STATEMENTS

 
●

 
 ●

●
●

 
●

● ● ● 

●

●

●

●

●

●

●

●

 
 

●

 
● 
●

●

●

 
●
●

 
●

 

●

 
●

 

●
 
●

 
●

 
 ●

●

●

●

●

●

 
 
 

●

 
●

 
●
● ●

 
●
●

 
 

● ●

● ●

● ● ● ●

●

●

● ● ● ●

●

●

●
●
●

●

●

●

VERA INSTITUTE OF JUSTICE

43

ENDNOTES
1	

2	

3	

American Civil Liberties Union, Smart Reform is Possible: States Reducing Incarceration Rates and Costs While Protecting Communities (New
York: ACLU, 2011); Doris Layton Mackenzie, Sentencing and Corrections in the Twenty-First Century: Setting the Stage for the Future
(College Park, MD: University of Maryland, 2001).
For information on the state prison population as of January 1, 2013,
see E. Ann Carson and Daniela Golinelli, Prisoners in 2012: Trends
in Admissions and Releases, 1991-2012 (Washington, DC: Bureau of
Justice Statistics, 2013), 39. For information on the 1972 state prison
population, see Patrick A. Langan et al., Historical Statistics on Prisoners in State and Federal Institutions, Yearend 1925-86 (Washington,
DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1998), 11. For information on state
correctional expenditures, see National Association of State Budget
Officers, State Expenditure Report 2010-12 (Washington, DC: NASBO,
2012), 52. Note that Vera research has demonstrated that the true cost
of corrections is even higher: real costs, such as employee benefits,
capital costs, or inmate health care costs, are covered in other state
agencies’ budgets. The real price of prisons is 14 percent higher, on
average, than what is reported in budgets. For more information on
the real price of prisons, see Christian Henrichson and Ruth Delaney,
The Price of Prisons (New York: Vera Institute of Justice, 2012), 3-6.
For information about 2006 state prison populations, see, see William
J. Sabol et al., Prisoners in 2006 (Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice
Statistics, 2007), 21. For information about 2012 state prison populations, see Carson and Golinelli, Prisoners in 2012: Trends in Admissions
and Releases, 1991-2012, 2013, 23. For information about consecutive
declines in prison population, see E. Ann Carson and Daniela Golinelli,
Prisoners in 2012 – Advance Counts (Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2013). The state prison population in the United States
decreased by 2.1 percent in 2012, following a 1.5 percent decrease in
2011 and a 0.2 percent decrease in 2010.

4	

See James Austin and Michael Jacobson, How New York City Reduced
Mass Incarceration: A Model for Change? (New York: Vera Institute of
Justice, the Brennan Center for Justice, and the JFA Institute, 2013).

5	

For information about New York and New Jersey, see James Austin et
al., Ending Mass Incarceration: Charting a New Justice Reinvestment
(Washington, DC: The Sentencing Project, 2013), 11-13. For information
about Kentucky, New Hampshire, and Ohio, see Nancy LaVigne et al.,
Justice Reinvestment Initiative State Assessment Report (Washington,
DC: Urban Institute, 2014), 80, 91, 99-100.

6	

7	

44

For information about the impact of the fiscal crisis on criminal justice
policy, see Lauren-Brooke Eisen and Juliene James, Reallocating Justice
Resources: A Review of 2011 State Sentencing Trends (New York: Vera
Institute of Justice, 2012); Ram Subramanian and Rebecca Tublitz,
Realigning Justice Resources: A Review of Population and Spending
Shifts in Prison and Community Corrections (New York: Vera Institute
of Justice, 2012); and Alison Shames and Michael Woodruff, The Continuing Fiscal Crisis in Corrections: Setting A New Course (New York:
Vera Institute of Justice, 2010). For research on the recidivism rate, see
Matthew Durose et al., Recidivism of Prisoners Released in 30 States in
2005: Patterns from 2005 to 2010, (Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice
Statistics, 2014). For results of public opinion polls which show that
most Americans support alternatives to incarceration for nonviolent
offenses, see Pew Center on the States, Public Opinion on Sentencing
and Corrections Policy in America (Washington, DC: The Pew Charitable Trusts, 2012).
National Association of State Budget Officers, State Spending for Corrections: Long-Term Trends and Recent Criminal Justice Policy Reforms
(Washington, DC: NASBO, 2013); and Alison Lawrence and Donna

Lyons, Principles of Effective State Sentencing and Corrections Policy
(Washington, DC: National Conference of State Legislatures, 2011).
8	

National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Collateral Damage:
America’s Failure to Forgive or Forget in the War on Crime: A Roadmap
to Restore Rights and Status after Arrest or Conviction (Washington,
DC: NACDL, 2014).

9	

For research that demonstrates that community-based sanctions are
more effective than incarceration for certain types of offenders generally, see Christopher T. Lowenkamp and Edward J. Latessa, “Understanding the Risk Principle: How and Why Correctional Interventions
Harm Low-Risk Offenders,” Topics in Community Corrections (2004),
3-8.

10	

National Research Council, The Growth of Incarceration in the United
States: Exploring Causes and Consequences (Washington, DC: National
Academies Press, 2014), 139; and Juan R. Ramirez and William D. Crano, “Deterrence and incapacitation: An interrupted time series analysis
of California’s three-strikes law,” Journal of Applied Social Psychology
33, no. 1 (2003), 110-144.

11	

Daniel S. Nagin, Francis T. Cullen, and Cheryl Lero Jonson, “Imprisonment and Reoffending,” Crime and Justice: A Review of Research 38,
no. 1 (2009), 115-200; and Pew Center on the States, State of Recidivism: The Revolving Door of America’s Prisons (Washington, DC: The
Pew Charitable Trusts, 2011).

12	

Pew Center on the States, Time Served: The High Cost, Low Return
of Longer Prison Terms (Washington, DC: The Pew Center Charitable
Trusts, 2012).

13	

Statement of Mrs. Justice Saris, “Reevaluating the Effectiveness of
Federal Mandatory Minimum Sentences: Hearing Before the Committee on the Judiciary,” United States Senate,113th Cong. (2013); and
National Research Council, 2014, 97.

14	

For a review of recent state-level drug law reform, see Ram Subramanian and Rebecka Moreno, Drug War Détente? A Review of State-level
Drug Law Reform, 2009-2013 (New York: Vera Institute of Justice,
2014).

15	

Ram Subramanian and Ruth Delaney, Playbook for Change? States
Reconsider Mandatory Sentences (New York: Vera Institute of Justice,
2014).

16	

HB 3194 repeals a ban introduced by Ballot Measure 57 (2008) on
downward departures from sentencing guidelines for certain repeat
drug and property offenders. Though the previous ban was not technically considered a mandatory minimum sentence, since defendants
could still earn up to a 20 percent sentence reduction for good behavior, it may be considered so in its effect since it barred judges from
deviating from the sentencing guideline range in those specified cases.

17	

CCEC Work Group, Criminal Code Evaluation Commission Review of
Criminal Code: Introduction and Overview (July 2012), 5, http://www.
in.gov/legislative/interim/committee/reports/CCECFB1.pdf (accessed
June 26, 2014).

18	

This has been called the “Iron Law” of prison population. See Todd R.
Clear and James Austin, “Reducing Mass Incarceration: Implications
of the Iron Law of Prison Populations,” Harvard Law & Policy Review 3
(2009), 307-24.

RECALIBRATING JUSTICE: A REVIEW OF 2013 STATE SENTENCING AND CORRECTIONS TRENDS

19	

20	

For research that demonstrates that recidivism rates are no higher
among prisoners whose release is accelerated, see Elizabeth K. Drake
and Robert Barnoski, Increasing Earned Release From Prison: Impacts
of 2003 Law on Recidivism and Criminal Justice Costs (Olympia: Washington State Institute for Public Policy, 2008); Carolina Guzman et al.,
Accelerated release: A literature review (Oakland, CA: National Council
on Crime and Delinquency, 2008); and James Austin, “Reducing America’s Correctional Populations: A Strategic Plan,” Justice Research and
Policy 12 (2010), 9-40. For research that demonstrates that good time
credits can improve reentry outcomes, see Drake and Barnoski, 2008.
For research that demonstrates that good time credits can improve
institutional safety, see M.S. Harer and J. Klein-Saffran, Lewisburg ICC
Evaluation (Washington, DC: U.S. Bureau of Prisons, Office of Research
and Evaluation, 1996), http://www.bop.gov/resources/research_projects/published_reports/recidivism/orepriccexst.pdf (accessed June 26,
2014).

29	

The bill also repeals a ban on downward departures from guideline
sentences. Prior to the passage of HB 3194, there were 16 property
offenses and 21 drug offenses for which a downward departure or probation sentence was unavailable on a second-or-subsequent offense.

30	

Eric J. Miller, “The Therapeutic Effects of Managerial Reentry Courts,”
Federal Sentencing Reporter 20, no. 2 (2007).

31	

West Huddleston and Douglas B. Marlowe, Painting the Current
Picture: A National Report on Drug Courts and Other Problem-Solving
Court Programs in the United States (Alexandria, VA: National Drug
Court Institute, 2011), 7.

32	

Rachel Porter, Michael Rempel, and Adam Mansky, What Makes a
Court Problem-Solving? Universal Performance Indicators for Problem-Solving Justice (New York: Center for Court Innovation, 2010).

For violent offenders (including those who offended against children or
whose offense involved the use of a firearm), this law introduces one
year of mandatory post-release supervision to be served at the calculated discharge date. This is achieved by deducting one year from the
offender’s “good time” credits, which must be served in the community
under supervision. Inmates are subject to GPS monitoring while under
supervision.

33	

For examples of legislative resolutions that urge or encourage the creation of veterans courts, see Oregon HCR 24 and Tennessee HJR 124.

34	

This law was tie-barred with three other enacted bills—HB 4695, HB
4696 and HB 4697—all of which deal with more detailed aspects of
mental health court operations, procedures, and requirements.

35	

For example, in 2007, 40 percent of all new prison admissions in California were probation violators. See Paul Golaszewski and Brian Brown,
Achieving Better Outcomes for Adult Probation (Sacramento, CA:
Legislative Analyst’s Office, 2009), 20. Also, in 2011, more than a third
of West Virginia’s new prison commitments were attributable to revocations from parole, probation, or other community supervision; of these,
more than half were due to technical violations, not a new offense. See
Council of State Governments Justice Center, Justice Reinvestment in
West Virginia (New York: Council of State Governments, 2013), 5, Fig.
3.

36	

L. Vieraitis et al., “The Criminogenic Effects of Imprisonment: Evidence
from State Panel Data, 1974-2002,” Criminology and Public Policy 6,
no. 3 (2007), 589-622.

37	

Graduated sanctions were already in use for violations of parole and
post-release supervision. See Council of State Governments Justice
Center, Justice Reinvestment in Kansas (New York: Council of State
Governments Justice Center, 2013), 11.

38	

Vera Institute of Justice, 2013, 19.

39	

D. A. Andrews et al., “Classification for Effective Rehabilitation: Rediscovering Psychology,” Criminal Justice and Behavior 17 (1990), 19-52;
Vernon L. Quinsey et al., Violent Offenders: Appraising and Managing
Risk (Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 1998); D.A.
Andrews et al., “The Recent Past and Near Future of Risk and/or Need
Assessment,” Crime & Delinquency 52 (2006), 7-27; James Bonta and
D.A. Andrews, Risk-Need-Responsivity Model for Offender Assessment
and Rehabilitation (Ottawa: Public Safety Canada, 2007); and Michael
L. Prendergast et al., “The Andrews’ Principles of Risk, Needs and
Responsivity as Applied in Drug Treatment Programs: Meta-Analysis of
Crime and Drug Use Outcomes,” Journal of Experimental Criminology
9 (2013), 275-300.

40	

Carson and Golinelli, Prisoners in 2012: Trends in Admissions and
Releases, 1991-2012, 2013, 4, Table 2.

41	

See Talia Sandwick et al., Making the Transition: Rethinking Jail Reentry
in Los Angeles County (New York: Vera Institute of Justice, 2013), 3031.

21	

Vera Institute of Justice, The Potential of Community Corrections to
Improve Safety and Reduce Incarceration (New York: Vera Institute of
Justice, 2013).

22	

Catherine Camilletti, Pretrial Diversion Programs: Research Summary
(Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Assistance, 2010).

23	

Although, in practice, diversion shares many characteristics with
traditional community supervision, the anticipated outcomes differ and
can include dismissal, declination of prosecution, and expungement of
charges and other criminal records.

24	

25	

This law applies only to district attorneys operating in the absence of
a local act. Additional laws were passed in 2013 granting the authority
to establish discretionary pretrial diversion programs to any governing body of a municipality generally (HB 648) as well as specifically
to Huntsville (HB 452), Geneva County (HB 495), Irondale (HB 638),
Fultondale (HB 644), Hoover (HB 645), St. Clair County (HB 649), and
Alabaster (SB 467).
Prosecutors are given broad discretion regarding program eligibility,
but they must consider: the nature of the alleged crime, any special
circumstances or characteristics of the defendant, whether diversion
would be consistent with rehabilitation, and whether diversion will
serve the public interest. Although adult pretrial diversion programs
already operated in some jurisdictions in Colorado, the purpose of HB
1156 was to standardize the programs, establish criteria to receive
state funding, and encourage other jurisdictions to launch the programs.

26	

See Colorado Commission on Criminal & Juvenile Justice, FY2013 Recommendation: Expand the availability of adult pretrial diversion within
Colorado’s Criminal Justice System, http://www.colorado.gov/ccjjdir/
Resources/PM/FY13-CS04.pdf (accessed July 7, 2014).

27	

New Jersey has two diversion programs: the Pre-Trial Intervention
Program (PTI) and the Conditional Discharge Program (CDP), both of
which result in the dismissal of charges upon successful completion. PTI
only applies to felonies, and CDP only applies to misdemeanors and
(now) petty offenses.

28	

Vera Institute of Justice, 2013, 4.

VERA INSTITUTE OF JUSTICE

45

42	

Council of State Governments Justice Center, Reducing Recidivism:
States Deliver Results (New York: Council of State Governments Justice
Center, 2014).

43	

Cindy Redcross et al., More Than a Job: Final Results from the Evaluation of the Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO) Transitional
Jobs Program (New York: MDRC, 2012); Le’Ann Duran et al., Integrated
Reentry and Employment Strategies: Reducing Recidivism and Promoting Job Readiness (New York: Council of State Governments Justice
Center, 2013); and Lois M. Davis et al., Evaluating the Effectiveness
of Correctional Education: A Meta-Analysis of Programs that Provide
Education to Incarcerated Adults (Santa Monica: RAND Corporation,
2013).

44	

For more information about criminal justice debt, see Alicia Bannon,
Mitali Nagrecha and Rebekah Diller, Criminal Justice Debt: A Barrier to
Reentry (New York: Brennan Center for Justice, 2010).

45	

Scott Thurm, “Employment Checks Fuel Race Complaints,” The Wall
Street Journal, June 11, 2013.

46	

See Joe Graffam et al., “Variables Affecting Successful Reintegration as
Perceived by Offenders and Professionals,” Journal of Offender Rehabilitation 40, no. 1/2 (2004), 147–171; Michael Pinard, “An Integrated
Perspective on the Collateral Consequences of Criminal Convictions
and Reentry Issues Faced by Formerly Incarcerated Individuals,” Boston University Law Review 86 (2006), 623, 647-49; and Emily Jane Bell
et al., Collateral Consequences of Criminal Conviction: warning your
client about the effects of conviction, with a focus on employment, parental rights and public housing consequences, Wisconsin State Public
Defender Conference, November 4, 2011.

47	

American Civil Liberties Union et al., State Reforms Reducing Collateral
Consequences for People with Criminal Records: 2011-2012 Legislative
Round-Up (New York: ACLU, 2012).

48	

Devah Pager and Bruce Western, Investigating Prisoner Reentry: The
Impact of Conviction Status on the Employment Prospects of Young
Men (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of
Justice, October 2009, NIJ Grant 2005-IJ-CX-0019).

49	

Ban the Box Campaign, “About” (accessed July 7, 2014), http://bantheboxcampaign.org/?p=20.

50	

Georgia law requires that a person’s driver’s license be automatically
suspended for 180 days on a first drug conviction, for three years on a
second drug conviction within a five year period, and for five years on a
third drug conviction in a five year period.

51	

State of Oregon, Commission on Public Safety, Report to the Governor
(December 17, 2012), 17, http://www.oregon.gov/CJC/Documents/
CPS%202012/FinalCommissionReport12.17.12.pdf (accessed June 25,
2014).

52	

Talia Sandwick et al., 2013.

53	

For example, in participating in the federally-funded Justice Reinvestment Initiative, four states in 2013 convened a task force or working
group to analyze drivers of their prison population and formulate policy
solutions to address those drivers. Theose states (and their resulting
legislation) are: Kansas (HB 2170), Oregon (HB 3194), South Dakota (SB
70), and West Virginia (SB 371).

54	

Michael Leachman, Inimai M. Chettiar, and Benjamin Geare, Improving
Budget Analysis of State Criminal Justice Reforms: A Strategy for Better Outcomes and Saving Money (Washington, DC: Center on Budget
and Policy Priorities and American Civil Liberties Union, 2012).

46

55	

Ibid. Nearly all states produce fiscal notes for at least some bills. The
Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reported in 2012 that 14 states
require written fiscal notes for specified types of criminal justice bills,
typically those that increase sentences or create new crimes. These
states are: Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky,
Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, South
Carolina and Virginia.

RECALIBRATING JUSTICE: A REVIEW OF 2013 STATE SENTENCING AND CORRECTIONS TRENDS

Acknowledgments
The authors would like to especially thank Karen Tamis and Juliene James for
assisting with drafting portions of the report; and to Alison Shames, Patricia
Connelly, and Mary Crowley for their hard work in the editing process. Finally, we
would like to thank Peggy McGarry for her insight and guidance throughout.
This publication is supported by a grant from the Open Society Foundations.

© Vera Institute of Justice 2014. All rights reserved. An electronic version of this report is posted on Vera’s website at
www.vera.org/state-sentencing-and-corrections-trends-2013.
For more information about Vera’s Center on Sentencing and Corrections, contact the center’s director, Peggy McGarry, at
pmcgarry@vera.org.
The Vera Institute of Justice is an independent nonprofit organization that combines expertise in research, demonstration projects,
and technical assistance to help leaders in government and civil society improve the systems people rely on for justice and safety.

THIS YEAR MARKS THE 20TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE 1994 CRIME BILL.
To examine the legacy of this landmark legislation, the lessons learned,
and the path ahead, Vera is convening a series of conversations with
experts and policymakers in Washington, DC, throughout the year, as
well as issuing a series of reports on sentencing trends—where the states
stand on mandatory minimums and other sentencing practices and the
resulting collateral consequences. This report is the third in that series.
Vera will also release a comprehensive study of the impact of the 2009
reforms to the Rockefeller drug laws in New York State, examining whether
they have improved offender outcomes, reduced racial disparities, and
saved money. Look for updates on our website at www.vera.org.
Suggested Citation
Ram Subramanian, Rebecka Moreno, and Sharyn Broomhead. Recalibrating Justice:
A Review of 2013 State Sentencing and Corrections Trends. New York:
Vera Institute of Justice, 2014.

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