Enacted only three years ago, the Justice Reinvestment Act is already showing great success in North Carolina through the implementation of sentencing reform and smart approaches to probation supervision and reentry programming. GEO Reentry Services is proud to play a part in that success, operating six reentry centers in key cities throughout the state.
The successes include an 8 percent decrease in the state’s prison population and a 50 percent decrease in probation revocations. In addition, 10 correctional facilities were closed in the last three years, contributing to $560 million in projected savings and averted costs by 2017. To top it off, during this same period, the state’s crime rate fell by 11 percent.
The Act’s successes were detailed in a report compiled by the Council of State Governments’ Justice Center, which worked with North Carolina to provide technical assistance in creating a data-driven justice reinvestment approach.
The Justice Reinvestment Act was a comprehensive package of reforms created in response to the growing number of state prisoners—in 2010 the number had risen 27 percent from 2000—and the rise in costs—up 49 percent—associated with that increase during the same period.
The Act, designed to improve public safety while reducing crime, the risk of recidivism and corrections spending, approached reform to the criminal justice system in several ways.
For one, it transformed the way probation supervision is handled in the state. Now, officers are required to assess probationers by risk of reoffending and supervise them accordingly. Previously, probationers were supervised at the same intensity regardless of their level of risk, even though research showed high-risk individuals were three times more likely to be rearrested within a year than low-risk individuals.
The Act also limited the length of incarceration to 90 days for those convicted of felony offenses who violated the terms of their probation but did not commit a new crime or abscond, as researchers had found that in Fiscal Year 2009, more than half of admissions to prison were probation failures and three-quarters of those admissions were for violations of probation conditions.
Additionally, the Act required that anyone convicted of a felony must receive 9 to 12 months of post-release supervision and it created a treatment program to provide substance use treatment, cognitive behavioral services and other evidence-based programs for individuals required to receive supervision.
As a part of this initiative, the North Carolina Department of Public Safety selected GEO Reentry to operate six of these treatment programs, called Treatment for Effective Community Supervision centers, in Charlotte, Greensboro, Concord, Gastonia, Asheboro and Salisbury.
The TECS programs target and serve offenders under supervision who are the most likely to reoffend. They offer drug and alcohol education and treatment, cognitive behavioral therapy, community connections—where offenders are linked to local resources as needed—and aftercare.
GEO Reentry has operated the six centers since 2013 and has celebrated several classes of graduates from the programs.
Probationers involved in these programs are able to be overseen by the creation of more probation officers—175 in FY 2014 and FY 2015—whose salaries are being covered in part by the savings generated from the closure of state prisons.
A key part in the success of the Act is the reservation of prison space for the most serious of offenders. By taking smart approaches to reentry programming and the probation supervision process, North Carolina is able to reduce the prison population while still maintaining public safety and reducing the risk of recidivism among offenders.
To read more about the Justice Reinvestment Act, click here.