February 27, 2017

State Policy Implementation Project


To improve the criminal justice system by promoting effective policy reforms that will keep the public safe and produce fiscal savings for the States

The American Bar Association and its Criminal Justice Section understand the current need for state governments to focus on fiscal savings and have developed a set of proposed criminal justice policy reforms that will save states money, improve the criminal justice system, and help keep the public safe.

To promote effective policy reform, the American Bar Association has assembled five key issues where reform will reduce state spending and keep communities safe.  The five policy areas are: 

Pretrial Release Reform

Civil Citations for Minor Offenses

Effective Reentry Programs

Increased Use of Parole and Probation

Community Corrections Programs

Proper implementation of policy reform in these areas will both increase judicial efficacy and save a significant amount of money.  The SPIP Overview discusses each of the five policy areas, policy standards or guidelines, relevant statutes that have already been passed, and success stories demonstrating fiscal savings.

SPIP Overview

SPIP Policy Shorthand Document

Community Corrections Programs

“Community corrections” refer to sanctions served by an offender within the community where that offender either (a) committed an offense or (b) currently resides.  The objectives of community corrections include punishing an offender in the least restrictive setting consistent with public safety and the gravity of the crime; providing offenders with education, training, and treatment to enable an individual to become a fully functional member of the community upon release from supervision; and making offenders accountable to the community for criminal behavior. 

Community corrections envisions a wide-range of locally implemented, non-incarcerative sanctions such as probation, day-reporting centers, community service, home confinement with or without electronic monitoring, drug and alcohol treatment, means-based fines, and restitution to both the victim and the community.

Relevant Policy:

Model Adult Community Corrections Act

ABA CJS Resolution 101D

ABA Standards for Criminal Justice: Sentencing, 3d ed. 1994

ABA Resolution 121D Kennedy Commission Report


Florida Juvenile Civil Citation Statutes

Kentucky Bail Statutes

Maryland Criminal Justice Bills

Mississippi Parole-Probation Statutes


Pew, Public Safety Performance Project, article documenting continued reduction in the prison population (March 2013)

White House page promoting many of the same programs as the ABA (including community-based treatment, and increased use of probation):

Roger Fairfax Jr., From Overcriminalization to “Smart on Crime” American Criminal Justice Reform, law review article about the history and trajectory of over-criminalization in the US and the prospects of “Smart on Crime” policies:

Marc Mauer, Sentencing Reform: Amid Mass Incarcerations, Guarded Optimism

Department of Justice Probation and Parole Data from 2011

Department of Justice: Corrections Expenditures from 1982-2010

Mary D. Fan, Political Climate Change Surrounding Alternatives to Incarceration

Judith Greene and Marc Mauer Downscaling Prisons: Lessons from Four States

2012-2013 Policy Paper: Evidence-Based Pretrial Release, Conference of State Court Administrators

John Tierney - For Lesser Crimes, Rethinking Life Behind Bars, NY Times (December 11, 2012)

Nancy G. La Vigne & Julie Samuels - The Growth & Increasing Cost of the Federal Prison System: Drivers and Potential Solutions, Urban Institute (December 2012)

Baradaran & McIntyre - Predicting Violence (2012)

McGregor Smyth - "Collateral" No More (2011)

McGregor Smyth - From "Collateral" to "Integral" (2011)

Turning the Corner on Mass Incarceration (2011)

Crime Trends, Good News, What Works, and Analyzing Options (2011)

National Summit on Justice Reinvestment and Public Safety Report (2011)

PJI - State of the Science of Pretrial Release Recommendations and Supervision (2011)

K. Babe Howell - Broken Lives From Broken Windows (2009)

News Articles

Criminal Law Checklist for Federal Legislators


  Maryland Working Group Members

Erek Barron

Marlene Beckman

Joseph I. Cassilly

Paul DeWolfe

Lauren-Brooke (L.B.) Eisen

Matthew Esworthy

Maureen Essex

Michael Hough

Roger Fairfax

Sidney Butcher

Stephen Saltzburg

Tim Murray

Links to Letters: State Policy Implementation Project

Dialogue on Strategies to Save States Money

CJS Town Hall Meeting in Annapolis, MD 

The Urban Institute gathers data, conducts research, evaluates programs, offers technical assistance overseas, and educates Americans on social and economic issues - to foster sound public policy and effective government.

The criminal justice system's actions in both preventing and responding to criminal behavior have implications for the safety, well-being, and financial stability of communities throughout the country. 

The most extensive study of drug courts - a five year examination of 23 courts and six comparison jurisdictions in eight state - found that these court programs can significantly decrease drug use and criminal behavior, with positive outcomes ramping upward as participants sensed their judge treated them more fairly, showed greater respect and interest in them, and gave them more chances to talk during courtroom proceedings.