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North Dakota uses results of CSG study to enact sweeping, cost-saving justice reforms

by Katelyn Tye ~ June/July 2017 ~ Stateline Midwest »
In April, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum signed into law a suite of bills that aims to curb the state’s correctional costs, reform its probation and parole systems, and increase access to community-based behavioral health programs. The enacted legislation (SB 2015, HB 1041 and HB 1269) was the product of a justice reinvestment study authorized two years ago by the North Dakota Legislative Assembly in response to the state’s rapidly growing prison population.
Between 2005 and 2015, federal data show, North Dakota’s prison population increased 34 percent — the second-largest rise, behind Indiana, among the 11 Midwestern states (see map). Without action, North Dakota’s prison population was projected to grow by 36 percent between 2016 and 2022, at a cost of more than $100 million for the state.
Last year, The Council of State Governments Justice Center and a bipartisan committee of North Dakota legislators and justice system officials conducted a comprehensive review of state data to determine the causes of this trend. Two populations, the study found, were driving nearly three-quarters of the state’s prison admissions: 1) people convicted of low-level, nonviolent crimes, and 2) individuals whose probation or parole had been revoked. Within these populations, drug abuse was a driving factor behind their imprisonment.
“We knew we would need to increase access to high-quality, community behavioral health treatment to stop the revolving door of drug abuse and slow the growth in the prison system,” says North Dakota Rep. Kim Koppelman, who served on the state’s Incarceration Issues Committee.
During its work on justice reform, Koppelman adds, the committee heard from judges who had sentenced people to prison as a means of getting them into a substance abuse program. North Dakota’s statutory changes:
Over the interim, a legislative committee will review implementation of these justice reinvestment policies.


Article written by Katelyn Tye, CSG Midwest staff liaison for the Midwestern Legislative Conference Criminal Justice & Public Safety Committee.