ND to do top to bottom review of its criminal justice system

Jan 26, 2016

Marc Pelka, program director for the Council of State Governments' Justice Center, speaking to a Bismarck news conference.
Credit Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

It’s being called a “comprehensive review of North Dakota’s criminal justice system.”

It will involve all three branches of government. And the Council of State Governments’ Justice Center will help with it.

Gov. Jack Dalrymple says the goals are to keep down the cost of incarceration and to reduce recidivism.

"Recidivism is that fun word tha means 'they keep coming back,'" said Dalrymple.

Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem says this goes hand in hand with an increasing demand for treatment – of alcohol and drug addiction, as well as other behavioral health issues.

"Most state's attorneys will tell you that the biggest consumer of resources they have is those people coming back, time after time, through that revolving door," Stenehjem said. "If the correctional system responds early, it provides both the accountability and the treatment that is needed to reduce recidivism, slowing that revolving door."

Marc Pelka is the program director for the CSG Justice Center. He says this is also part of an effort called a “Justice Reinvestment Initiative.”

"States that have carried out justice reinvestment approaches have seen their prison populations decline, generating hundreds of millions of dollars in savings from those averted prison costs," said Pelka.

Pelka also says although the study will look at what other states are doing, the program will be unique to North Dakota.

"There is no 'one-size-fits-all' approach to this," said Pelka.

Sen. Ron Carlisle (R-Bismarck) chairs the interim Incarceration Issues Committee. He said the plan is to have one big comprehensive bill ready for the 2017 Legislature.