In a new report entitled “The State of Sentencing 2011: Developments in Policy and Practice,” Nicole Porter of The Sentencing Project summarizes the most recent set of criminal-justice reforms adopted across the United States. Continuing a recurring theme in recent years, many of these reforms are intended to reduce incarceration numbers and corrections budgets. Here are some highlights:
According to a report by the National Governors Association, at least 40 states made cuts to correctional expenditures between 2009 and 2010 by reducing labor costs, eliminating prison programs, and making food-service changes. . . .
During 2011, state legislatures in at least 29 states adopted 55 criminal justice policies that may contribute to continued population reductions and address the collateral consequences associated with felony convictions. . . .
Four states — Connecticut, Ohio, Nebraska, and North Dakota — established sentence modification mechanisms that allow correctional officials to reduce the prison sentences of eligible prisoners . . . .
Four states — Arkansas, Delaware, Kentucky, and Ohio — revised mandatory and other penalties for crack cocaine and other drug offenses. The states also authorized alternatives to prison as a sentencing option in specified circumstances. In addition, Idaho and Florida expanded the eligibility criteria for drug courts in order to expand their impact . . . .
Illinois abolished the death penalty, becoming the sixteenth state to eliminate the sentencing option . . . .
North Carolina restricted the use of prison as a sentencing option for certain persons who violate the conditions of probation . . . .