Principles of Effective State Sentencing and Corrections Policy


A Report of the NCSL Sentencing and Corrections Work Group

 Report Resources

Principles cover

The NCSL Sentencing and Corrections Work Group project was developed under an NCSL partnership with the The Pew Charitable Trusts, public safety performance project. The NCSL project responds to the challenges faced by states as they consider corrections and sentencing policies that both manage state spending and protect the public. The Pew PSPP was launched in 2006 to help states advance fiscally sound, data-driven policies and practices in sentencing and corrections. Pew’s work has included research, technical assistance, and funding and overseeing a variety of efforts both in states and nationally to support strategies that protect public safety, hold offenders accountable and control corrections costs.

The NCSL Criminal Justice program assembled the Sentencing and Corrections Work Group in 2010. The bipartisan, 18-member group includes officers of NCSL’s Law and Criminal Justice Committee and other legislators who are recognized as leaders on these issues. The group had a one-year work plan to discuss and identify overarching principles for effective state sentencing and corrections policy and to identify key issues and approaches that explain and illustrate the recommendations.

The issues addressed by the NCSL work group reflect the important role of state legislatures in enacting policies that manage prison populations and costs, address offender and community needs, and contribute to the safe and fair administration of criminal justice. The discussions took place during a difficult, recessionary budget climate. A major interest of the work group was how to have an immediate effect on state public safety dollars while also ensuring that the public safety is protected into the future. Many concepts addressed in the Principles reflect recent advances in resource-sensitive policies that actually reduce risk and recidivism. Mindful that sentencing and corrections policies reach into various levels and branches of government, the Principles also reflect the value that lawmakers place on stakeholders throughout criminal justice systems in policy development and discussions. Apparent throughout the Principles is the importance of interbranch and intergovernmental collaboration, information exchange and evaluation in working toward effective sentencing and corrections policies.

It is the intent of NCSL and this work group that the Principles and examples presented here will help guide and inform many aspects of state sentencing and corrections policy now and well into the future.