JR in Action

On this page

International justice reinvestment context

Justice reinvestment was conceived in the United States in an attempt to address the epidemic of incarceration and its associated costs. Justice reinvestment has been explored and implemented in a number of countries worldwide including the US and the United Kingdom. It is useful to look and learn from overseas examples.

United States

In the United States, where justice reinvestment was developed, the approach has been implemented in 27 states in an effort to address rising expenditure resulting from the highest incarceration rate in the world. The management of justice reinvestment programs nation-wide has been coordinated by the Council of State Governments Justice Center (Justice Center), a national not for profit organisation which serves policymakers through data driven and evidence based practices.

In 2007, Texas was experiencing dramatic pressure on its prison system. Plans were made to build additional prisons and rent emergency detention spaces, costing over $600 million dollars. In May 2007, justice reinvestment legislation was passed to address the issues in Texas’ justice system.

Mapping of the prison population identified five counties in Texas that accounted for more than half of the prison population.

Rather than the affected communities leading the process, the Council of State Governments Justice Center undertook research into factors contributing to incarceration rates and community need. Initiatives that were implemented as a result included substance abuse and mental health facilities, reinvestment in the Nurse-Family Partnerships Program which pairs nurses with low income mothers during their child’s infancy, half way houses, and methods to ensure adequate supervision for parole were also created.

The results demonstrated a 29 per cent decline in recidivism between 2006-2009 and a decrease in the prison population by 1,125 between 2008-2010. Furthermore, a saving of $443.9 million was recorded between 2008-2009.

In 2007 it was predicted that the prison population in Kansas would increase by 22% by 2016. The Justice Center conducted research around which post codes produced the most offenders, with 6 of the 9 top ratings located in Wichita.

The New Communities Initiative then brought together leaders from the state, county and community to design a set of strategies to address the needs of a neighbourhood in Wichita. Initiatives included 60 day credit for those who completed educational, vocational or treatment programs prior to release, strategies to address mental and physical health, and adult education.

Kansas experienced significant results, with the prison population only increasing by 10 individuals between 2007-2010 instead of the projected 700. Incarceration rates however increased when the Global Financial Crisis led to defunding of justice reinvestment in 2010.

Washington State
Washington State developed a State justice reinvestment policy framework aiming to reduce property crime and strengthen policies and practices to reduce recidivism.

In 2013 Washington had one of the highest property crime rates in the US. An increasing number of individuals convicted of property crimes were being sentenced to prison, and had a high likelihood of committing a new crime.

The framework was designed to help the state avoid up to $291 million in prison construction and operating costs that would otherwise be needed to accommodate growing numbers of prisoners. To achieve that, the state would need to reinvest $90 million in law enforcement grants, supervision and treatment, support for counties, and financial assistance for victims of property crime. The framework has a goal of reducing the property crime rate by 15 percent by 2021, deterring crime, and reducing recidivism.

The Justice Reinvestment Policy Framework was translated into legislation and introduced during the 2015 legislative session. However, no legislative action was taken during session. State policymakers plan to reintroduce legislation during the 2016 session.

National Summit on Justice Reinvestment and Public Safety
The National Summit on Justice Reinvestment and Public Safety: Addressing Recidivism, Crime, and Corrections Spending report summarises the remarks, research, and case studies presented during a national US summit on justice reinvestment. The report was designed to assist Congress and practitioners by providing a concise articulation of justice reinvestment. Chapter 1 provides an overview of the challenges facing American corrections; Chapter 2 sets out how justice reinvestment will contribute towards cost effective corrections policies and programs; Chapter 3 outlines justice reinvestment case studies; and Chapter 4 concludes with a snapshot of useful national resources.

Lessons from the States: Reducing Recidivism and Curbing Corrections Costs Through Justice Reinvestment
The Lessons from the States report outlines 6 recommendations for jurisdictions trying to implement justice reinvestment policies, based on successful experiences. It finds that states can address both public safety and fiscal challenges with evidence-based and data-driven policies. 

United Kingdom

The United Kingdom has also been moving towards the implementation of justice reinvestment in order to address its growing prison population and expenditure on corrections. In 2010 the Justice Committee of the House of Commons published its Cutting Crime: the case for Justice Reinvestment report, which outlined a ‘blueprint’ for justice reinvestment in the UK.

The approach emphasises the use of geographical mapping by categorising neighbourhoods as ‘priority’, ‘at risk’ and ‘stable’, while also calculating the current expenditure on initiatives in different communities. The UK approach also highlights ideas about spending and advanced ways of measuring performance.

Following the report, pilot programs were set up around the UK.

Youth Justice Reinvestment Custody Pathfinder
The Youth Justice Reinvestment Custody Pathfinder provided incentives to local authorities to reduce custody rates for 10-17 year olds. The program was funded upfront, giving authorities the flexibility to create their own strategies to reach targets. If the targets were not met, a clawback provision meant that funds would have to be paid back. The pilot ran for 2 years from 2011-2013, with 4 sites selected (2 dropped out after one year). Approaches ranged from the use of community packages, custody case reviews, intensive supervision and diversion from arrest. Both sites exceeded their targets, with custody bed nights, a major target, cut by up to 40 per cent in the second year. In the aftermath of the pilot, strong leadership was identified as one of the main enablers of the program.

The Youth Justice Reinvestment Custody Pathfinder Final Evaluation Report produced by the UK Ministry of Justice in the UK assesses implementation and delivery of the Pathfinder plan.  Section 3 of the report outlines the interventions, delivery and implementation of the pilot. Section 4 looks at the external facilitators and challenges that were faced, and Section 5 evaluates the performance of the pilot’s two sites. The report ends on section 6 which outlines the main conclusions, implementations for policy, and lessons learnt through the pilot.
Youth Justice Reinvestment Custody Pathfinder – Final Evaluation Report UK.pdf

Cutting crime: the case for justice reinvestment
The Cutting crime: the case for justice reinvestment report by the UK House of Commons Justice Committee evaluates the direction of policy and spending on the criminal justice system in this period.  The report is critical of the British Government’s tough on crime approach and advocates for a move towards justice reinvestment. The report makes an extensive list of conclusions and recommendations.

The Local Justice Reinvestment Pilot
The Local Justice Reinvestment model initiated just reinvestment pilots in Greater Manchester and London boroughs with authorities given reward payments if certain thresholds were met. Initiatives included conditional cautioning for drugs and alcohol, neighbourhood justice panels, and a women’s centre.

The Development and Year One implementation report of the Local Justice Reinvestment Pilot report discusses the strengths and weaknesses of the 2011 Local Justice Reinvestment pilots. It found the pilot had benefits in Greater Manchester for key criminal agencies including police, probation and courts. However, various stakeholders from pilot sites stated that it provided insufficient incentive to encourage local agencies to make significant investment in reducing demand and substantial changes to practice. It considers lessons learnt and includes recommendations for further adoption of a local justice reinvestment approach.

New Zealand

Although New Zealand has not adopted a specific justice reinvestment approach, its 10 year Youth Crime Action Plan provides an interesting approach to reduce youth offending rates.

While New Zealand, like Australia, has low levels of youth offending, the plan of the program is to achieve a 25 per cent reduction in youth crime, with a focus on the over-representation of Maoris in the justice system.

Similar to justice reinvestment, the program intends to have a ‘genuine partnership with communities’ by involving Maori communities, frontline practitioners and schools in the process to allow 20 communities across New Zealand to develop their own solutions to youth offending problems.

With an innovation fund of $400,000 the program aims to reduce escalation by implementing informal interventions, warnings, family group conferences and diversion programs.