Governor John Lynch today continued efforts to keep New Hampshire the safest state in the nation by signing into law the Justice Reinvestment Act, a comprehensive set of corrections reforms designed to improve public safety and reduce costs to taxpayers.
Joining Governor Lynch as he signed the reforms into law were members of the bipartisan group that helped develop the legislation, including Senate President Sylvia Larsen, House Speaker Terie Norelli, State Supreme Court Chief Justice John Broderick, Rep. David Welch, Attorney General Michael Delaney, Corrections Commissioner William Wrenn and members of local law enforcement. Also in attendance wereÂ representatives from the Council of State Governments Justice Center, the Pew Center on the States and the federal Bureau of Justice Assistance who worked closely with state leaders in developing the Justice Reinvestment Act.
"This new law is an important part of our efforts to keep New Hampshire the safest state in the nation,"Governor Lynch said. "Violent felons belong in prison, and some criminals should and will stay in prison the rest of their lives. But most people who enter New Hampshire's prison system will complete their sentence and be released back into the community at some point. These reforms will make New Hampshire safer, and save taxpayers money by working to ensure that released offenders become productive members of our society, do not commit new crimes and do not return to prison."
The new law is estimated to reduce the state's prison population by 18 percent by reducing the number of offenders who commit new crimes and return to prison as a result of probation and parole revocations. The projected savings amount to between $7.8Â and $10.8 million over the next five years.
Over the last several months, the Council of State Governments Justice Center has worked with the State Justice Reinvestment Leadership Team, lead by Attorney General Delaney and composed of state agency heads, legislative leaders from both sides of the aisle and top officials from the court system.
The Leadership Team held numerous roundtable discussions and sought professional input to develop the reforms in the Justice Reinvestment Act. The Pew Public Safety Performance Project, the U.S. Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Assistance and the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation provided technical assistance and support to the leadership Team as it developed this new law.
The Justice Reinvestment Act increases supervision of released inmates who are a high-risk to offend again; applies swift and certain jail sanctions for probation and parole violations; reinforces New Hampshire's truth in sentencing tradition by requiring all offenders to serve no less than 100 to 120 percent of their minimum sentences; and reinvests savings in behavioral health and treatment programs for high-need and high-risk parolees and probationers.
"Through the Justice Reinvestment Act, we are reforming our laws and our Corrections system in common sense ways, consistent with New Hampshire values and New Hampshire's commitment to public safety," Governor Lynch said. "These are smart, proven ways we can work to reduce the number of repeat criminal offenders, save taxpayers money and improve public safety."
"The policy framework in Senate Bill 500 reinforces what we all know to be true: the solutions to the criminal justice problems we face cannot solely be addressed inside the walls of our jails and prisons; but also need resources directed to our communities, with appropriate supports and supervision," said Sen. Larsen.
"The signing of this bill today by Governor Lynch is the culmination of many months of hard work and thoughtful deliberation by many groups and individuals. This bill is a major step in modernizing the state's prison and parole system to reduce future recidivism and New Hampshire will join a handful of other states that have proven track records of improving public safety by enacting similar reforms. Not only will this improve public safety, it will also lower state correction costs for the state and for the counties, "Speaker Norelli said.
Partnerships with the Pew Public Safety Performance Project and the U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Assistance, and support from the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, provided technical assistance to the Leadership Team as it developed this new law.
"Senate Bill 500 will, if properly implemented, reduce correction costs long term, improve the results of probation and parole and enhance public safety. I applaud the efforts of Governor Lynch, Attorney General Delaney and legislative leadership on this groundbreaking and thoughtful legislation," Chief Justice Broderick said.
"Justice Reinvestment is fundamentally a public safety initiative.Â It will help law enforcement and corrections officials achieve better outcomes for parole and probation populations in our communities. By lowering our recidivism rate and decreasing the number of repeat offenders, we can make our streets even safer," said Delaney.
"Over the last several years, we've worked to improve our Corrections system and lower recidivism. This new law will allow us to increase our efforts in reducing recidivism, which will increase public safety and reduce costs," Commissioner Wrenn said.
In nine other states, the CSG Justice Center has partnered with Pew and the Bureau of Justice Assistance to help policymakers enact legislative packages that have safely averted hundreds of millions in corrections spending. These policymakers, using data analysis and policy options provided by the Justice Center, made reinvestments that have reduced recidivism, prison growth, and corrections spending.
"Given the skyrocketing costs associated with a rising incarceration rate, the Justice Reinvestment Initiative, in concert with the significant commitment to effective reentry through the Second Chance Act, provides our best hope of reducing costs and providing evidence-based programs that protect public safety by addressing the underlying causes of criminal behavior," said Gary Dennis, Ph.D., Senior Policy Advisor for Corrections from the Bureau of Justice Assistance. "BJA is proud to have supported the bipartisan effort in New Hampshire through the Council of State Governments Justice Center."
"New Hampshire is enacting research-based strategies to reduce recidivism, hold offenders accountable and maximize the state's limited financial resources," said Richard Jerome, project manager, Public Safety Performance Project of the Pew Center on the States. "New Hampshire policy makers put aside ideology, looked at the data and forged a comprehensive package of reforms that will get taxpayers a better return on their public safety dollars."
"This initiative and bill shows how much strength there is in meaningful public-private partnerships," said Katie Merrow, vice president of program for the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation and a member of the Justice Reinvestment Work Group. "The Foundation is pleased to have played a role in bringing Pew, BJA, and the CSG Justice Center to the state, and we look forward to continuing this collaboration with our top public safety leaders."
Senate Bill 500 was sponsored by Senate President Syliva Larsen, and Sens. Bob Letourneau, Maggie Hassan, PeterÂ Bragdon, Deb Reynolds; and Speaker Terie Norelli, and Reps. David Welch, Steven Shurtleff, and Neal Kurk.