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Closing the "Gap" Between Competency and Commitment in Minnesota: Ideas from National Standards and Practices in Other StatesJanuary 9, 2018
In Minnesota, a "gap" exists in the justice system for defendants with mental illness. Defendants in criminal cases are found incompetent to stand trial, yet do not meet the higher standard for civil commitment. Commitment is the only way to receive competency restoration treatment, so individuals who do not meet the standard are unable to resolve their criminal cases or to receive treatment. The Robina Institute conducted research see how other states address incompetency.
Risk Averse and Disinclined: What COVID Prison Releases Demonstrate About the Ability of the United States to Reduce Mass IncarcerationMay 23, 2023
"Risk Averse and Disinclined" builds upon prior findings produced last year through the Institute's publication "Examining Prison Releases in Response to COVID: Lessons Learned for Reducing the Effects of Mass Incarceration." Through this new report, researchers present case studies of six states — Alabama, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and Washington — to gain a more in-depth view of what legal mechanisms were available to jurisdictions and the factors that influenced whether they were willing or able to use those mechanisms to release people from prison during the pandemic. The findings of this report show that although jurisdictions have the power to make releases from prison using back-end discretion, they are unlikely to use it due to risk aversion stemming from the fear of public and political backlash should anyone who is released go on to commit a serious crime. Thus, the authors continue to conclude that back-end release mechanisms offer only a modest opportunity to reduce mass incarceration. Instead, state-level carceral policies that focus on diffusing responsibility for back-end release and reduce incarceration in the first place have the greatest chance of achieving long-term reductions in prison populations.
Paroling authorities play an important, if often unrecognized role, in American prison policies. Discretionary parole processes decide the actual release dates for most individuals subject to confinement in 34 states. Additional leverage over time served is exercised through parole boards' revocation and re-release authority. The degree of discretion these back-end officials exert over the dosage of incarceration is vast, sometimes more than that held by sentencing courts.Any comprehensive program to change American prison policy must focus to a significant degree on prison-release discretion, where it exists, and its relationship to time served. During the buildup to mass incarceration, many parole boards became increasingly reluctant to grant release to eligible prisoners. Today, if it were possible to reverse this upward driver of prison populations, parole boards could be important contributors to a new evidence-based status quo of lower prison rates in many states. Reasonable objectives of reform include policy-driven increases in the likelihood of parole release, and more rational decision making overall about time served.This report describes twelve "levers of change," each associated with potential reforms in the realm of discretionary parole release. The reforms are called "change levers" because, once a lever is pulled, it is designed to impact prison populations by altering parole grant rates and durations of time served. The report identifies 12 areas of innovation that, to some degree, have already been tried by a number of states. In most cases, from a distance, it is impossible to evaluate the quality of each state's implementation of one or more change levers, or the results that have been achieved. But the fact that states have begun to experiment in specific areas shows that there is an appetite for reform. In addition, actual experimentation indicates that some of the groundwork has been laid for evaluation, improvement, and dissemination of promising ideas to many additional states.Some levers have become embedded in the decision protocols of parole boards over the past 20 years and more, while others have emerged only recently. One of the goals of this report is to demonstrate how combining the levers is key to reform. This report maps the terrain of the 12 identified change levers, to the degree permitted by available information. The map shows a huge amount of state-by-state variation, even without hands-on study of each system. The report further classifies individual levers based on the number of jurisdictions in which they have been identified, and their potential impact on states' prison populations.
There is currently no sentencing commission and there are no sentencing guidelines in Oklahoma. Courts may, in their discretion, consider evidence of aggravating and mitigating factors at the sentencing phase to determine the exact punishment. In the late 1990s, Oklahoma enacted truth in sentencing and a community corrections scheme for certain crimes.
Parole Exits and Revocation Knowledge System (PERKS) Project: Georgia State Board of Pardons and ParolesAugust 3, 2018
This report presents the findings of the Parole Exits and Revocation Knowledge System (PERKS) Project. What follows includes, but is not limited to, a consideration of the following: a) a review of existing prac-tices of states that are using structured revocation decision-making models, b) an assessment of enhanced risk, need, and responsivity tools to consider what personal and social capital or crime desistance variables would improve post-prison decision making by the Board, and c) a summary of suggested modifications of relevant policies and procedures
Kansas Prisoner Review Board: Parole and Post-Release Supervision and Revocation Technical Assistance ReportMay 1, 2018
The Robina Institute recently completed work with the Kansas Prisoner Review Board to improve and streamline their revocation process by reducing the number of offenders revoked on post-release supervision and reducing the time revoked offenders spend in prison. Dr. Edward Rhine, Assistant Professor Ebony Ruhland, and Dr. Julia Laskorunsky examined multiple decision points in the Kansas system to provide technical assistance and policy recommendation to the Board.
Rhode Island does not have a sentencing commission or statutory sentencing guidelines. The Rhode Island Superior Court, which has jurisdiction over felony crimes and sentences, uses sentencing benchmarks as well as general, statutory authority to sentence offenders to a specific term of imprisonment. Rhode Island has had conditional release since 1896, and the Parole Board has existed in some form since 1915. In 1993, the legislature passed an act that increased the number of board members from 6 to 7 and added a fulltime chairperson.
Alaska has had statutory sentencing guidelines in place since 1980, which have since been supplemented by appellate court decisions. Alaska briefly created a sentencing commission in 1990; it produced a final report in 1992 before its legislative mandate expired in 1993. Alaska felony defendants are sentenced to definite terms of imprisonment.Alaska's Constitution provides for a parole board; the statute that the current Board operates under was originallyenacted in 1985. Alaska law provides both discretionary parole for some inmates and mandatory parole for mostinmates serving a sentence of more than two years.
New Jersey does not have a sentencing commission or sentencing guidelines. There are four broad categories of felony crimes in the state, and judges have a great deal of discretion to select a sentence from within the range of years associated with each category. The New Jersey State Parole Board, in its current form, was authorized by the Parole Act of 1979, which repealed and replaced the Parole Act of 1948. Until that time, there were four separate paroling authorities that each had jurisdiction over different segments of the offender population.
Sentences in Vermont are indeterminate and have both a minimum and a maximum term imposed by the court. Vermont does not have sentencing guidelines or a sentencing commission. Vermont's incarcerated population tripled between 1990 and 2007; the state credits their 2007 Justice Reinvestment Act for reversing (or at least leveling off) this trend. Some form of conditional release has existed in Vermont since 1777 when the power to grant pardons was vested in the governor by the state constitution. In 1898, the legislature gave the Board of Prison Commissioners the power to grant conditional pardons formerly held only by the governor; three years later, the law was declared unconstitutional. It appears that the governor held the power to grant conditional release until 1971, when the Vermont Parole Board was established.
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