Tuesday, January 22, 2013

A Recap of Smart Justice in 2012

Written by: Stephen K. Talpins

2012 ended on a high note as the Federal government, several states, and numerous national organizations joined the crusade for Smart Justice. Momentum is so strong, that many of us believe that we are reaching the tipping point. In this post, we celebrate some of the most important developments in 2012.

The Obama Administration continued to play a critical leadership role in justice reform. The Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) and Department of Justice (DOJ) released documents and policy briefs supporting Smart Justice initiatives, including Drug Courts, Hawaii’s Opportunity Probation with Enforcement (HOPE), and the South Dakota 24-7 Sobriety Program. DOJ’s National Institute of Justice (NIJ) and Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) awarded grants to implement and evaluate pilot HOPE programs in four communities: Clackamas County, Oregon; Essex County, Massachusetts; Saline County, Arkansas; and Tarrant County, Texas. Of course, crime is not a partisan issue; conservative leaders pushed these and similar programs on their own and through groups like Right on Crime.

Congress joined the effort by including Smart Justice provisions in a law reauthorizing highway funds. “Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century” or MAP-21 authorizes funding for state driving coordinators who can address their respective state’s DUI laws on enforcement and adjudication, Traffic Safety Resource Prosecutors (TSRP), ignition interlock devices, alcohol screening, and brief interventions for impaired drivers, and 24-7 Sobriety Programs.

Of course, crime largely is a state and local problem. Several states passed landmark justice reform legislation or otherwise implemented Smart Justice Programs, including Alaska, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, Montana, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Washington. The National Association of Counties (NaCO) passed a resolution supporting continuous alcohol monitoring. Many counties and cities piloted community corrections programs.

National non-profits continued to play a critical role. The Pew Charitable Trusts Public Safety Performance Project continued to lead legislative efforts, while the American Probation and Parole Association, Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, Institute for Behavior and Health, Justice Management Institute, National Association of Drug Court Professionals, National Criminal Justice Association, National Partnership on Alcohol Misuse and Crime, and others helped develop program models and/or provided crucial technical assistance to practitioners.

In the meantime, fresh research demonstrated the new paradigm’s potential. Researchers at the RAND Corporation are conducting an in-depth review of the South Dakota 24-7 Sobriety Program under a National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) grant. In November, they released their first article addressing the program’s impact on recidivism at the community level. Using very conservative criteria, they determined that it correlated with a 12% reduction in recidivism among repeat DUI offenders and a 9% reduction in recidivism among domestic violence offenders.

Despite the progress, however, much works remains. We expect another exciting year as we continue to promote Smart Justice theories, models and programs nationally. Together, we CAN make a difference!

Stephen K. Talpins is the CEO of the National Partnership on Alcohol Misuse and Crime, an inclusive public-private partnership committed to identifying, developing, and promoting criminal justice programs that improve public safety, reduce recidivism and change lives for offenders who misuse alcohol.