New report: State-level criminal justice reforms that can win in 2020

We list 24 high-impact policy ideas for state legislators looking to reform their criminal justice systems.

by Wanda Bertram, December 12, 2019

State legislatures can determine the future of mass incarceration. That’s why we just published — as we do every December — a report on 20+ winnable criminal justice reforms that state legislators can take on.

We publish this report as a PDF with links to more information and model bills, and we’ll soon send it to state legislators across the country. This year, our list of reforms ripe for legislative victory includes:

  • Eliminating probation fees and regulating privatized probation services
  • Banning Departments of Corrections taking kickbacks from prison retailers
  • Decreasing state incarceration rates by reducing jail populations
  • Repealing ineffective and harmful “sentencing enhancement” zones
  • Offering medication-assisted opioid treatment to reduce deaths in prison
  • Protecting in-person visits and letters from home in local jails
  • Ending automatic driver’s license suspensions for nonpayment of fines and fees, and for drug offenses unrelated to driving
  • Capping maximum probation terms
  • Reducing or eliminating jail time for technical violations
  • Reducing barriers to housing for formerly incarcerated people

Our full report on winnable criminal justice reforms includes more ideas for reducing state prison populations, eliminating burdensome costs for incarcerated people, supporting people leaving prison, and promoting public health and community safety.

Will your state be working on any of these reforms? We’re looking forward to the progress we can make together in 2020!

4 responses:

  1. Rebecca Reyes says:

    Letter submitted Garfield County Oklahoma seems to possess a unique opportunity to change the face of detaining an accused individual due to the many severe issues created by jailers themselves as well as their administrators. Among these issues are:
    1. unqualified people hired by a temporary staffing agency
    2. questionable additional charges on detained persons while at the jail
    3. jailers with holding basic needs/privileges out of vindictiveness
    4. tainting of food with their bodily fluids or foreign substances
    5. loss of inmate personal property, refusal to submit PROPER paperwork for property, mishandling of property
    6. nepotism within the facility
    7. antipsychotic medications given to inmates only to be withheld by staff (medical or otherwise) from said inmate to provoke a psychotic episode which leads to more charges by jail staff and caused by jail staff
    8. inadequate nutrition
    9. refusal of jail staff to adhere to policy, procedure, and protocol
    10. favoritism of jailers to specific inmates because of familial or friendship ties
    11. ego of jailers due to title, wrong disposition for type of work; need mental evalutions before employment and law enforcement credentials


    The face of being incarcerated creates great stress for the ACCUSED (not convicted) by job loss, home loss, and creates a great financial burden for them as well as the taxpayers. The idea with this proposal would be to create ‘virtual jailers’ through the use of tracking equipment which would monitor the physical location as well as audio capabilities. All actions by the accused and jailers would be recorded and time stamped. Any tampering by jailers-automatic termination with charges. Any tampering by the accused-physically jailed.
    There are many reputable companies which deal with the equipment and/or GPS/satalite monitoring and used by other law enforcement agencies. This could be used in lieu of a bond, an alternative. Many bondsman want 15% of the bond amount plus a co-signer with collateral for bonds over $5000, which many families, friends, or even the charged person do not have. To use this alternative, the accused person’s bond could be between $5000-$30000. Instead of paying a bondsman, the arrested person would agree to ankle monitoring (with audio), pay $250-300 for the equipment plus the cost of the monitoring service during the time needed to bring their case to a conclusion. People with more serious charges could be on house arrest (murder, rape, heinous child crimes excluded), subject to audio monitoring and recording.
    Some of the benefits to this include:
    1 affordability
    2. no job loss of jailers; change of title to virtual jailer
    3. less food and supplies needed for incarceration; less laundry, cleaning supplies
    4. could be used for city/county probation, reducing cost to county
    5. enbles the accused to continue working to meet personal and financial obligations
    6. any medications the accused needs will be his/her responsibility, decreasing liability to the city/county
    7. limit physical jail personel to murderers, rapists, child crimes; law enforcement credentials needed.
    8. as long as the accused fulfills all court appearances, adheres to the work schedule submitted to the courts (no unnecessary outtings), and pay for rental costs and monitoring service, this could substantially reduce the cost of detaining people to the county and city.
    9. Section of jail could be used for monitoring equipment

    Rental of equipment should be affordable. Up to $300 for fitting of equipment, register equipment with monitoring entity. The initial cost of some tracking devices are between $200-300 each, with outside monitoring starting at $20 per month (could charge accused $50). However, the computer program police and 911 operators use may work as well. If the monitoring agency is the local jailers, the they would have to be trained on how to track, what each screen looks like, and the parameters the equipment has. They will not be able to manipulate the data and many trackers come within a few feet of accuracy.

    The collection of data on each person accused could potentially save the city, county and state a substantial amount of money and pay for itself in a short amount of time. This could could be a good alternative to the medium and smaller communities where most people know each other. It would also give the information, in one place, as to the behavior of people, whether they met their obligations to the court, and work records. It may also lead to the arrest of others involved with crimes.

  2. Claire Terry says:

    My fiance is in prison right now and it is due to him having a bad crack cocaine habit which led him to break into closed stores in order to gain access to cigarettes to give to the crack cocaine dealer to get his crack cocaine his habit never came up in court and since he had a lengthy criminal history he was giving mandatory sentence of 19 years I pray that he will be able to come home sooner he has four years left he had a public defender which did not help Matters

  3. Rhonda Pittman says:

    I feel if you go in these facilities and check all the inmates who have been on good behavior for a leghnthy time and who has kept themselves occupied in school and other positive activities. Those inmates would be the ones you can depend on doing the right thing if released. There are inmates who have done all this inside, but cannot further their positiveness inside, because they are limited.

  4. WJS says:

    Eliminating probation fees of any kind, and reducing the financial obligations that goes with incarceration, makes the system more fair. We put a terrible burden on the incarcerated as it is with bail.

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