According to the Des Moines Register, the lack of available mental health services in Iowa communities has led to a rise in civil commitments to the prison system. John Baldwin, director of Iowa’s prisons, said that around 30-35% of Iowa inmates have mental illnesses, and he encouraged the legislature to fund alternatives, such as “sub-acute” facilities, that would decrease the financial burden on the prison system. To address the problem, Iowa legislators have proposed restructuring the state’s mental health system entirely. The current Iowa system, according to this Associated Press report, creates one mental health care system in each county—meaning Iowa essentially has 99 separate mental health care systems. The combination of capped property tax revenues and a tight state budget has left those systems underfunded. As a result, Republican legislators have proposed shifting responsibility from the counties to the state—a shift that could reduce county property taxes by up to $66 million. Director Baldwin’s proposals emphasize efficiency, as Iowa looks to lower prison costs while improving the quality of their mental health services.
Pat Nolan of Prison Fellowship received an award at CPAC 2011 to recognize his efforts on behalf of conservative criminal justice reform. After the award presentation and a panel discussion featuring Nolan, U.S. Congressman Ted Poe, American Conservative Union Chairman David Keene, and Right On Crime’s Marc Levin, Nolan made the following comments:
Last week, at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), I was interviewed by Duane Lester, the All-American Blogger. Lester spent nearly a decade working with adjudicated youth in the state of Missouri, so he understands conservative criminal justice reform — particularly juvenile justice and substance abuse issues — in a way that few members of the media can match. The conversation that we have about drug courts at 5:02 is particularly worth watching.
People in the criminal justice community often quote the startling statistic that one in every 31 adults in the United States is under correctional supervision. As startling as this figure may be, however, it still doesn’t match the uniquely troubling situation in the state of Georgia, where one in every 13 adults is under correctional supervision — the worst ratio in the nation.
Fortunately, however, Georgia’s conservatives are paying attention, and they have taken up the cause for conservative criminal justice reform. This piece by Mike Klein of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation details the incarceration problem, outlines some cost-effective solutions, and notes the prominent state political figures who are involved in helping Georgia move forward.
On Friday, February 18, Marc Levin of Right On Crime spoke at the University of Toledo College of Law about corrections policy in the state of Ohio. His PowerPoint presentation on Ohio corrections can be viewed here.
Levin’s presentation comes at the perfect time for Ohio. As this article from the Toledo Free Press explains, new Republican Governor John Kasich has put criminal justice reform near the top of his priority list:
He said prison costs could be drastically reduced by rethinking whether non-violent offenders, including those who commit drug-related offenses, should be sent for short stays in state prison. Kasich said people who commit such crimes are not a public threat and shouldn’t be imprisoned at high cost to taxpayers alongside murderers.
He also said state prison also seems like the wrong place for child-support delinquents.
“Why do I want to put somebody that doesn’t pay child support in a state prison … instead of putting them somewhere and forcing them on a work detail or home confinement or county jail, in a place where the public is safe and yet we can get our costs?” he said. “To me, that’s low-hanging fruit.”
Recently, state Sen. Bill Seitz failed to get the necessary support to bring an overhaul of Ohio’s criminal sentencing laws up for a vote on the floor of the Republican-controlled Senate. The measure proposed cost-reducing measures such as imposing the same sentences for crack and powder cocaine offenses, expanding inmates’ ability to reduce their sentences through good behavior, and increasing use of halfway houses and GPS devices, as well as numerous other changes.”
Right On Crime previously mentioned Gov. Kasich’s interest in criminal justice reform here.