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In 2015, several states in Midwest revamped justice policies

by Tim Anderson ~ December 2015 ~ Stateline Midwest »
States in 2015 continued to dissect their justice systems in search of policies that control spending and, at the same time, improve public safety. The result: Major statutory changes this year in states such as Illinois, Nebraska and South Dakota.
For several years now, in many of the region’s capitols, there has been an increased emphasis on justice reform. As one example, South Dakota legislators in 2013 changed the state’s criminal sentencing policies (in part to keep some nonviolent offenders out of prison) and sought to reduce rates of recidivism among adult offenders.
This year, the Legislature turned its attention to how the state handles youths in its juvenile justice system. With the passage of SB 73, South Dakota will be committing fewer young people to detention facilities and diverting more of them to community-based programs. By 2020, the number of youths in the state’s residential facilities is expected to drop by 50 percent.
Similarly, Illinois is seeking to “right-size” its juvenile justice system. Under one bill passed this year (SB 1560), minors can no longer be committed to detention facilities for misdemeanor offenses. And under a second new law (HB 3718), young people charged with certain felony offenses will not be automatically prosecuted in adult criminal court.
This year’s reforms in Nebraska, meanwhile, deal with the problem of overcrowding in prisons and try to avert the need to build new ones.
Under LB 605, more people convicted of low-level offenses will be put on probation rather than sent to prison. The new law also calls for evidence-based practices to be used in parole supervision and for most people released from prison to receive some kind of community supervision. By 2020, LB 605 is projected to reduce Nebraska’s prison population by 1,000 people.