August 30, 2017

Summary of

Local Government Justice Reinvestment Commission Meeting August 30, 2017

This was the first meeting of the Commission, while the Justice Reinvestment Oversight Board had been meeting over the course of a year.  Prior to the meeting, an agenda and membership list were available on the website of the Governor’s Office on Crime Control and Prevention.

Chair, Robert Green, Director of the Montgomery County Department of Correction and Rehabilitation brought the meeting to order and gave a summary of the mission and work of the Commission. Most importantly, he noted that the Justice Reinvestment Act (Chapter 515) goes into effect October 1, 2017.

Robert Green, the Chairman of this Commission, introduced Daniel Long who chairs the Justice Reinvestment Oversight Board, a judge and former legislator from the lower Eastern Shore.

Daniel Long reminded the Commission that the Justice Reinvestment Act (JRA) received strong bi-partisan support with a vote of 123-18 in the House and 46-0 in the Senate. He declared that the Justice Reinvestment Initiative will only work if there is partnership with local government, especially with regard to the number of opioid overdose deaths in the state. In the partnership, we must provide treatment options for persons struggling with addictions.  He emphasized that the goal of the Justice Reinvestment Initiative is to SAFELY reduce the prison population.  Thirty-three states have now passed Justice Reinvestment Initiative legislation.  He reviewed some history of legislation in Maryland, including Senate Bill 602 which established an advisory council and Senate Bill 1005 which contained many of the recommendations from the advisory council. The key is to balance public safety with cost savings.  We need to assure that offenders have opportunity to become productive members of society.

Throughout the meeting, the critical need for local involvement was emphasized.  Local government, in partnership with the Justice Reinvestment Oversight Board, will be led by Local Government Justice Reinvestment Coordinating Councils.  Local involvement must include provision of data and reporting of needs.  It should enable sharing of successful programs and strategies and report local needs.

Janet Lane, the new Director of Justice Reinvestment and Don Hogan, Chief of legislation and Justice Reinvestment of the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention (GOCCP) walked the meeting through a power point about Maryland’s Justice Reinvestment initiative.

Janet Lane noted that the prison population, approximately 9,000 persons in 1981, by 2002 had ballooned to about 24,000.  Hogan attributed much of the growth to the distribution of crack cocaine (at considerably lower cost than cocaine) and the consequent war on drugs.

Texas was the first state, in 2007, to form a Reinvestment commission to address what would have been a need for additional prisons. Maryland was the 31st state to establish a Justice Reinvestment Initiative. There are three levels of boards/commissions spelled out in the JRA: The 25 member Oversight Board, the 12 member Advisory Board, and the 24 member Local Government Justice Reinvestment Commission, one member from each Maryland county. To date, the Justice Reinvestment Coordinating Council (JRCC) has published a report, in December 2016, along with 6 additional studies/reports which are all posted on the GOCCP website. The JRCC developed 19 recommendations which are included in the JRA, 515, which is to be implemented October 1, 2017. The recommendations focus on:

  • diversion/deflection (pre-trial, “front door”),
  • rehabilitation (behind the walls),
  • restorative justice (victims’ rights, including restitution),
  • re-entry (pre-release and after release).

Don Hogan cited data from Maryland jails indicating that 69% of the prison population suffers from substance abuse, and 39% have a mental illness or mental health concern. 35% have both a substance abuse issue and mental health concern.  108 persons have received Vivitrol prior to release.  (Vivitrol blocks opioid receptors in the brain and reduces cravings that can trigger a relapse into addiction.)

Local jails will be reimbursed $45 per day per person to house persons coming back to local prisons from state prisons. There was discussion of legislation from 1989 revised in 2007, 8-505 and 8-507, giving procedures for current inmates receiving court-ordered in-patient treatment instead of incarceration. Mr. Hogan noted the need for additional providers of in-patient treatment services; questions from members of the commission elaborated on this concern.

The JRA addresses the need for enforcement of restitution for victims and the difficulties in the process of collecting restitution.  All inmates ordered to pay restitution to a victim will have 25% of the wages earned on work-release withheld for restitution payment.  5% of grants through Performance Incentives will go to victims’ restitution. There will be a study of the various restitution programs in the state to understand better what is effective and what problems need to be solved.

He noted that the state cannot expect to see meaningful savings for justice reinvestment from implementation of JRA until 2019, but pointed out that the prison population is now approximately 19,000, down from the all-time high of 24,000 (and from 22,000 in 2014).

Don Hogan enjoined the commissioners to start to identify what services their own counties need.  For example, one commissioner noted that in-patient treatment for mental health needs to include a plan for re-entry to society after the 60-to-90 day treatment; another noted need for more 8-505 and 8-507 beds.  Another concern related to sentences coming to an end before completion of treatment, including sometimes release from prison before treatment begins.  Hogan stressed the need to identify and report needs because the JRA must work for every jurisdiction, large or small, rural or urban, wealthy or not.  Commitment to Justice Reinvestment is critical, he emphasized.

The chairman, Robert Green, noted that the average delay between the request for treatment and the provision of inpatient services is now down to 55 days where it had been 101 days. He asked the commissioners to provide data about what is going on in local jurisdictions. The Commission is trying to create a re-entry resource list of what is out there and what is working so that programs can be replicated. He noted the importance of local Criminal Justice Coordinating Councils in all of the states where Justice Reinvestment initiatives are working effectively. He has so far received information from 5 counties on pre-trial services and alternatives to incarceration, and he praised the quality of those reports.  He then introduced Jeffrey Zuback.

Jeffrey Zuback from the Governor’s Office on Crime Control and Prevention gave a presentation on performance measures to determine the impact of the JRA on public safety.

The Justice Reinvestment Initiative is data driven.  Data is being collected on 126 measures. Of these, 18 measures are the responsibility of local jails, including the number of persons receiving treatment and the length of time it takes to get into treatment. Of the 126 measure, 65-70 are measures for the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, including data about case management. The Department of Health is responsible for data related to 8-505 and 8-507.  Data on some measures are being collected from the Office of the Courts, and from the Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulations, including information on workforce issues. Data is also being collected from the Commission on Criminal Sentencing Policy.  Finally, the GOCCP is working with counties to gather data from the counties that will be used to develop effective processes for all counties to meet the JRA goals (see below).

As data is collected from various agencies and local governments, it is critical that definitions are clear so that the data is consistent and can be compared across jurisdictions. The Justice Reinvestment Act articulates 10 desired outcomes:

  • Lower incarceration rate,
  • Lower recidivism rate,
  • Increased restitution payments,
  • Lighter sentences for drug offenses,
  • Improved outcomes for community supervision,
  • Timely access to treatment,
  • Increased funding for programs for reduction of recidivism,
  • Increased alternatives to incarceration,
  • Increased compliance credits for non-violent offenders,
  • Increased medical and geriatric parole.

The data gathered will be used as a baseline, to compare pre-JRA to what emerges as changed processes are implemented.  GOCCP is trying to make local work to supply the data as simple as possible, but Zuback emphasized the importance of meeting the deadlines.  On-time submission of data will be critical for the Justice Reinvestment initiatives to work.  He reiterated that implementation of the law comes into effect October 1, 2017.  Bench cards, information sheets for judges, the surveys, everything must be submitted because local impact, knowledge, and input are critical for local county Justice Reinvestment groups working on JRA.

In the question period, an issue was raised about the problem arising when inmates earn “good time” leading to early release and then are not able to complete a program of rehabilitation because they were released before completing the program. Several questions were raised about data on mental health as there is inconsistent assessment and diagnosis across jurisdictions. Director Green again stressed the need for Inter-Agency Criminal Justice Coordinating Councils in each jurisdiction and pointed to Montgomery County as a model.

Members of the Commission expressed hope that the information would be shared with the Maryland Association of Counties (MaCo).  The Director of the Prince George’s County Department of Corrections raised the issue of persons in the jail prior to trial and sentencing. Of the current population of 957 jailed in PG County, fewer than 150 persons have been sentenced. She noted that it is important to know more about those persons who are pre-trial and why they are held, including prior convictions and level of violence in the current charge.

Robert Green, Chair, indicated that the Commission will meet next probably in early January 2018.  The Justice Reinvestment Oversight Board is required to meet 4 times/year.  Meetings of the Commission should appear before and after those meetings.  Members can be in touch with one another via an email listserve.  Janet Lane and Don Hogan will be available on that listserve to answer questions.  That way, all of the questions and the answers will be available for all.

Minutes of this meeting will be created and distributed to members of the Commission. The minutes will be distributed and approved via email. The meeting adjourned at 2:30 p.m.