BBA President Deb Manus of Nutter LLP issued the following statement on the release of the legislative Correctional Spending Commission’s final report yesterday:
The BBA was pleased to have a seat on the commission and cast its vote in favor of the report, which addresses transparency and accountability in corrections. By offering new data and valuable insights into the state’s appropriations at the state and county level, the commission has advanced the cause of determining why correctional spending has increased even as incarcerated populations have declined.
Especially promising is the consensus on the importance of the availability of evidence-based programming in order to reduce recidivism. In other words, gone are the days of simply warehousing people and hoping for the best.
Nevertheless, more work remains to be done, as the Legislature, the Department of Correction, and the state’s sheriffs must pick up where the commission left off. Through its report and its accompanying web-site, the commission has made available information that it received. In doing so, it has also laid bare limitations in both the amount of data currently available and the consistency of the manner in which that information is presented.
Only with more complete and consistent data can we improve upon the efficiency of our spending on recidivism reduction, or on transparency and accountability. Legislators and the public have a right to know how our tax dollars are being spent.
We also reiterate the recommendation of our 2017 criminal-justice report, No Time to Wait, that anti-recidivism programming be expanded. As the commission’s report recommends, these programs, as well as proper treatment and education, should be available as early as possible. That should apply throughout the system, including to people being held pre-trial.
Crucially, whichever body is tasked with building on this commission’s groundwork must have broad representation, including from current and former inmates, and their families and advocates.
We look forward to the next steps in this process toward a more open and accountable correctional system, and we are ready to help engage with the legislative and executive branch on the reforms needed to get there.
Finally, I thank the co-chairs, Senator Brownsberger and Representative Day, as well as all the commissioners, for their dogged commitment to this difficult task in a challenging time. I wish to especially thank Kate Cook, who served as the BBA’s representative on the commission until December 31, 2021, while employed at Sugarman Rogers, PC. Kate’s contributions — particularly to the report’s findings on substance-abuse and mental-health programming — were invaluable.