On October 30, organized by Chief Justice of the Superior Court Tina Nadeau, New Hampshire state legislators and stakeholders from throughout the criminal justice system gathered to discuss solutions for New Hampshire’s high recidivism rates and skyrocketing costs of incarceration. Also in attendance was former state Representative Jerry Madden of Texas who, during his time in the Texas Legislature, championed sensible, evidence-based criminal justice reforms.
“It was tremendously helpful having Jerry participate in the discussion. His experiences in Texas, his work with Right on Crime, and his knowledge of the approaches taken by states across the nation helped focus the discussion on workable criminal justice programs that have demonstrated their success,” commented Representative Jordan Ulery (r-Hudson/Pelham). “New Hampshire needs to focus its public safety resources on proven solutions that hold our criminal justice programs and spending accountable.”
Texas has led the nation in reforming its criminal justice system. In 2007, faced with the projected need of over 17,000 new prison beds at a cost of $1.13 billion, Texas was tasked with correcting its criminal justice problem without building new prisons. Led by former Representative Jerry Madden, the state examined the factors driving their prison population and, instead of building new prisons, funded treatment programs for nonviolent offenders and increased in-prison treatment programs. These reforms lowered the rate at which offenders returned to prison by getting to the root cause of criminality. As a result, Texas was able to avoid $2 billion in costs that would have been incurred had the state simply built and operated more prison beds. Since then, numerous states including Georgia, Arkansas, Ohio and Kentucky have adopted similar reforms. Said Representative Ulery; “We need to spend our tax dollars where the greatest results can be achieved.”
Conservative organizations such as the American Legislative Exchange Council and Right on Crime have worked on similar policy solutions that emphasize individual accountability, protect public safety by focusing prison space on violent offenders, and provide nonviolent offenders with the programming and resources they need to get back on their feet and keep them out of prison.
The discussion attendees planned to hold a follow-up meeting, review additional data on what solutions have worked in other states, and expand the number and scope of shareholders included in the discussions.