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CSG, North Dakota leaders working on new Justice Reinvestment Initiative

A bipartisan group of leaders from all three branches of North Dakota government has launched a review of the state’s criminal justice system with help from The Council of State Governments. The CSG Justice Center has previously worked on justice reinvestment strategies in six other Midwestern states: Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Nebraska, Ohio and Wisconsin.
North Dakota policymakers will focus on reducing recidivism, lowering corrections spending, averting costly future expansions of the state’s correctional facilities and increasing public safety. Gov. Jack Dalrymple, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, Supreme Court Chief Justice Gerald VandeWalle and Sen. Ron Carlisle announced the new Justice Reinvestment Initiative at a January event inside the state Capitol.
“The legislature has focused on criminal justice policy in recent sessions and we are looking forward to continuing this work,” Carlisle said.
He is serving as chair of the Incarceration Issues Committee. This interim legislative committee includes state lawmakers, members of the executive branch, police chiefs, a local state’s attorney, district court judges, Chief Justice Vandewalle and Attorney General Stenehjem.
The committee will work with the CSG Justice Center on analyzing data, engaging stakeholders, and developing and implementing new policies.
Between 2005 and 2013, North Dakota’s crime rate increased by 6 percent and the prison population spiked by 19 percent, pushing the state’s correctional facilities to capacity. If no action is taken, the prison population is expected to grow another 75 percent between 2015 and 2025, from 1,751 to 3,061 people.
“We welcome this opportunity to further review our criminal justice system and build on our work to reduce recidivism and to ensure that spending on corrections is as cost-effective as possible, while adhering to our high standards of public safety,” Gov. Dalrymple said.
The rise in the prison population has led to increases in corrections spending. From biennial budget years 2005 to 2015, North Dakota’s general fund appropriations to the North Dakota Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation increased 114 percent, from $83 million to $178 million.
More than half of the incarcerated population in North Dakota is being held in county jails, causing a strain on those facilities. Between 2005 and 2015, the county jail population increased by 82 percent, from 959 to 1,754 people.
The state’s top-to-bottom analysis of its criminal justice system is also made possible by a partnership with the Pew Charitable Trusts and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance.
A comprehensive policy package will be ready for legislators to consider when they reconvene for the 2017 session.