To decrease the strain on the Wyoming Department of Correction’s budget and reverse the trend of increasing incarceration of the state’s citizens, the Wyoming Legislature has invited the assistance of the Council of State Governments Justice Center (CSGJC) to make recommendations for changes in Wyoming’s criminal justice system. The Council of State Governments is a national organization dedicated to helping state and local governments operate more effectively.
TReND Wyoming endorses CSGJC’s policy change recommendations, which are complimentary reforms in probation and parole implementation on the one hand, and community-based treatment and support services on the other. Both approaches are needed to make either one successful.
CSGJC policy change recommendations advocated by TReND Wyoming include:
- Expanding the availability of timely, evidence-based treatment for people on probation and parole who have substance addictions and/or mental illnesses across Wyoming.
- Providing the necessary intensity of specialized evidence-based community substance addiction and/or mental health treatment for people on probation and parole across Wyoming.
- Developing care coordination, peer supports, and transportation plans to facilitate treatment that are tailored to different regional needs across the state.
- Creating a swift and more seamless continuity of care for people transitioning from incarceration to the community.
- Improving coordination between probation and parole field offices and community health and substance use centers by instituting coordinated, collaborative case plans focused on pro-social behavioral change.
- Prioritizing individuals at high risk to fail on supervision and have a greater need for treatment.
- Focusing probation and parole resources and programming on individuals at greatest risk of failing on supervision.
- Setting maximum probation and parole terms to 3.5 years.
- Holding people on state supervision accountable with swift, certain, but proportional sanctions.
- Helping crime victims receive coverage for expenses resulting from mental health services.
Additionally, TReND Wyoming advocates that:
- Sanctions for those who violate the conditions of their parole or probation need to include options that do not involve jail time, which in most cases leads to a loss of employment and to the demoralizing challenges that result from that loss. An example of a non-jail sanction is monitored home confinement. Intermediate sanctions should be designed to restrict recreational and social activities, but allow for employment and substance abuse treatment. If incarceration is necessary, weekend or work-release jail sanctions should be implemented to avoid loss of employment. For unemployed individuals, home confinement except to attend verified job-searching activities should be an option.
- Oversight and coordination of behavioral, peer support, and related community-based support programs should be under the governance of the Wyoming Department of Labor, Health, and Social Services.
- A committee comprised of members from both the public and private sectors should be established to oversee planning, implementation, and continued monitoring, of support services and programs. No less than one-half of the committee members shall be formerly-incarcerated and recovering individuals from the private sector.
- A system of data collection should be established for the purpose of evaluating both the use and effectiveness of justice reinvestment programs as measured against those cases where justice reinvestment programs were not used. The system of data collection and analysis should comply with state and federal laws governing confidentiality and disclosure of personal health information.
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