A group of state and local leaders from across the country, including respected legislators, court and law enforcement officials, and cabinet secretaries and other gubernatorial appointees, was brought together last week in Washington, D.C., by the Council of State Governments Justice Center. These state and local government officials, who serve on the center’s board of directors, gathered to discuss the latest thinking on such issues as prisoner reentry, the response to people with mental illnesses in contact with justice professionals, state spending on corrections and public safety, high utilizers of emergency services, and other issues at the intersection of the criminal justice system and the public health or other systems.
The board members met with federal officials and foundation leaders from the Bureau of Justice Assistance, the Center for Mental Health Services, the National Institute of Corrections, the Department of Labor’s Center for Faith and Community-Based Initiatives, and The Pew Charitable Trusts’ Public Safety Performance Project. These sessions focused on the status and future of important projects being conducted in partnership with the Justice Center.
“The focus of the center continues to expand. It now includes exploring issues at the state level that are related to at-risk youth, victims’ rights and services, and other complex matters that call for sound data and broad consensus on which to base policies and practices,” said Ashbel T. Wall, Director of the Rhode Island Department of Corrections. “It was exciting to be part of a discussion that focuses on how we can make a true impact on communities.”
The board of directors charted the Justice Center’s course for the coming year. The group examined options for keeping pace with the demand for technical assistance, including the release of a number of guides and toolkits for the field that will support its direct work in the states. The participants also celebrated such successes from the past year as the passage of the Second Chance Act on prisoner reentry, in which the organization played a key coordinating role.
Director Wall added, “I am honored to be part of a bipartisan group of leaders setting the direction for such groundbreaking work. The center is involved with some of the toughest criminal justice policy issues facing states. It is gratifying to see what a significant impact it has on improving how state resources can be more effectively and efficiently allocated to support approaches that make a real difference in people’s lives and in the functioning of our criminal justice system.”
The Council of State Governments Justice Center is a national nonprofit organization that serves policymakers at the local, state, and federal levels from all branches of government. It provides practical, nonpartisan advice and consensus-driven strategies—informed by available evidence— to increase public safety and strengthen communities.