E:Bulletin:Sentencing and Corrections Policy Updates Newsletter

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The E-Bulletin is an NCSL electronic newsletter for state legislators, legislative staff, and others interested in state sentencing corrections policy. This newsletter provides periodic updates on state sentencing and corrections legislation and budgets, highlights innovative policies and programs, and connects you with reports and news of upcoming NCSL events.

The E-Bulletin is prepared under a partnership project of NCSL's Criminal Justice Program and the Public Safety Performance Project of the Pew Center on the States.  The NCSL project is designed to help states find the best research and information availale when considering sentencing and corrections policy options and reforms.

This article appeared in the E-Bulletin, September 2011 issue. (Full newsletter in pdf)

ON THE FISCAL FRONT:  Corrections Impact Statements

States put a price tag on sentencing and corrections legislation.

Fiscal impact statements put a price tag on proposed legislation. At least 16 states require the use of specialized corrections impact statements, which provide information to legislators that is unique to sentencing and corrections policies.

In Virginia, a corrections impact statement is required when a proposal will have a fiscal impact on correctional populations or criminal justice resources. Impact statements in Virginia include a six-year projection of correctional populations and associated increases in operating costs, an analysis of the impact on local jails and community corrections programs, and any required adjustments to the sentencing guidelines to conform with the proposal. In order for the General Assembly to adopt legislation that would result in a net increase in prison populations, a one-year appropriation is required in the amount equal to the highest single-year increase in operating costs identified within the six-year projection. As part of a larger corrections reform effort, Kentucky adopted a similar requirement in 2011.

Corrections statements often provide an analysis of the impact on existing programs, services and policies. In North Carolina, legislative fiscal research staff provide a five-year projection on correctional populations and bed capacity and the associated costs, including any capitol costs for proposals that would increase prison populations. In addition, for bills that would create a new crime or change the classification or penalty range of an existing crime, the Sentencing and Policy Advisory Commission advises whether the provision is consistent with the statutorily defined crime classification and punishment criteria. The criteria was established to ensure a systematic and rational basis for classification that is based on harm to the victim.

Minority Impact

2007 study by The Sentencing Project that reported Iowa’s black-to-white incarceration ratio of 13.6 to 1 was the highest in the country. In 2008, Iowa became the first state to require an impact statement for proposed correctional policies on minority populations. Legislation proposing a new criminal offense; amending an existing offense; or modifying sentencing, probation or parole procedures includes the proportion of women, those with disabilities, Blacks, Latinos, Asians, Pacific Islanders, American Indians and Alaskan Native Americans who are involved at various stages in the criminal justice system. The Connecticut General Assembly adopted a similar law later in 2008. A 2009 article published by the American Bar Association, Racial Impact Statements: Changing Policies to Address Disparities,provides more information from the Sentencing Project work on racial impact.

States Requiring Corrections Impact Statements
To link to the individual state laws, click on the state

Colorado Connecticut Illinois Iowa Kansas Kentucky Missouri Nevada
North Carolina Ohio Oregon Rhode Island South Carolina Texas Virginia  

Source:  NCSL, June 2011