2021 Quarter 3 | The Council of State Governments (CSG) | Midwestern Legislative Conference (MLC)
MLC Criminal Justice & Public Safety Committee Newsletter
Co-Chair North Dakota Rep. Shannon Roers Jones
Co-Chair Illinois Sen. Robert Peters
Vice Chair Nebraska Sen. John McCollister
Upcoming Events
*All times are Central Time
September 21:

September 29-October 1:

September 30:

October 1-5:

October 13:

October 20-21:

November 15-16:

December 1-4:

July 10-13, 2022:
76th Annual Meeting of the MLC - Wichita, KS

August 26-30, 2022:

December 7-10, 2022:
Committee Happenings
Greetings again members of the Midwestern Legislative Conference (MLC) Criminal Justice & Public Safety (CJPS) Committee. After 10 years it’s finally back — time to approve redistricting plans and establish new legislative boundaries. As you all start planning your return trips to your respective state capitols, please also consider the multiple virtual meeting opportunities CSG Midwest has in store this fall.

The next scheduled event for the CJPS Committee is just around the corner. On Tuesday, September 21 from 10-11:00 AM there will be a joint webinar with the MLC Health and Human Services (HHS) Committee. The session will include a presentation by various groups in the Wichita, Kansas area regarding how that city is developing a crisis response strategy comprising of members of law enforcement and mental health professionals. Among the presenters are Capt. Jeffery Weible of the Wichita Police Department, Jennifer Wilson of the community mental health center COMCARE, and Malachi Winters of the Sedgwick County EMS.

On Wednesday, October 13 from 11-12:00 PM there will be a virtual Legislative Roundtable for members of the CJPS Committee. The meeting will serve as a continuation of the (abbreviated) discussions held at the annual conference in July regarding criminal justice and public safety issues, reforms and legislative actions that have taken place across the region in the last few months or years.

Finally, during the week of November 29 there will be another joint committee webinar, this time with the MLC Economic Development Committee. The meeting will be a part of a larger series the Economic Development Committee is hosting this fall with other MLC groups. Be on the lookout for more information about the webinar as the date gets closer.

As a reminder, Derek Cantù will be taking over as the lead CSG Midwest staffer for the CJPS Committee. Any committee questions or comments can be directed to him at dcantu@csg.org.
CSG Justice Center Updates
In August, the Justice Center released a brief as a part of its Stepping Up Initiative. In short, the initiative promotes greater data collection relating to mental illness and the criminal justice system in order for policymakers to gain a better understanding of how many incarcerated persons suffer from a mental illness, identify what kinds of care they receive while incarcerated, and recidivism statistics.

The brief — "Innovator Counties: Leading the Way in Justice System Responses to People with Behavioral Health Needs” — identifies counties and communities that have not only engaged in data collection to better direct prison policy, but are working to redevelop law enforcement and public health intervention strategies to address mental health issues.

Multiple Midwest counties were among those identified for taking steps to develop co-responder models, crisis stabilization units and prioritizing care to high-need populations — including counties in Kansas, Indiana, Iowa and Ohio.

Another data tool being promoted is the National Corrections Data Dashboard, a brainchild of the federal Bureau of Justice Assistance and the Justice Center's Justice Counts initiative. The data tool illustrates monthly and annual state-by-state information — including prison population totals and the number of post-release supervision revocations.

Links to Midwest state dashboards are included below:
Criminal Justice News
The Cost of a Prison Phone Call in Wisconsin Depends on the Location
A recent analysis by the Prison Policy Initiative revealed disparities in the amount of money it costs for incarcerated persons to make phone calls in Wisconsin, depending on where in the state they’re located. For example, for someone making a call from a jail in Jefferson, Vernon or Vilas Counties, a 15 minute call will cost $1.80. However, a 15 minute call made from a jail in Green County will cost $14.77. Counties and phone service providers both earn revenue from said calls, and in places like Barron County the county collects 82% of the revenue.

For the family members of incarcerated persons, phone calls that cost around $15 or more can act as a major financial burden. According to a 2016 report by the Prison Policy Initiative, the median annual income for incarcerated persons was $15,109 in 2015 dollars. Other experts have expressed concern that an incarcerated person’s lack of connection to family members and loved ones — due in part to a financial inability to pay phone call costs — could increase recidivism.

Some areas have begun to decrease if not outright eliminate phone call costs. Cities in California like Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Francisco and New York City have made attempts to make said calls free. This year, Connecticut became the first state to make calls to and from prisons free. 

For more information, check out the linked article by the Wisconsin Rapids Tribune

An Illinois Sheriff's Office is Using Video Tablets as a Mental Health Response Tool
Throughout the pandemic, the use of video-conferencing tools like “Zoom” have become commonplace in the workforce as a means to continue hosting all-staff meetings and facilitate cooperation on team projects. At the Cook County Sheriff’s Office, however, the tool is taking on a new purpose — assisting officers responding to mental health calls. 

Unlike other precincts across the Midwest that are considering the development of mental health response teams — consisting of social workers and psychological professionals that travel with or in place of law enforcement on calls — Cook County is equipping its officers with tablets so that distressed persons can communicate with mental health professionals located miles away. Currently, the department has secured 70 tablets for officer use. 

For more information, check out the linked article by the Associated Press

The Iowa Department of Corrections is Temporarily Suspending A Prison Mail Screening Policy
A prison mailing protocol which mandated letters addressed to incarcerated persons first be photocopied has been put on pause in Iowa. The policy was first implemented after concerns that certain letters were being previously soaked in a synthetic marijuana called K2 or Spice so that offenders could smoke the letters once they arrived at prison facilities. 

However, by instituting a policy that required IDOC personnel to open and photocopy letters beforehand — even those suspected of being legal correspondence — there was a concern it violated constitutional protections over privacy and attorney-client privileges.

For more information, check out the linked article by Iowa Public Radio

Indiana Lawmakers and the CSG Justice Center are Exploring Changes to the State's Juvenile Justice System
Indiana state lawmakers are evaluating potential reforms to the state’s juvenile justice system. Aided by research conducted and presented by the CSG Justice Center, the Indiana Juvenile Justice Reform Taskforce is hoping to gain a better understanding of why Hoosier youth are ending up in juvenile detention and exploring policy changes. 

To date, a number of working groups have formed to explore issues related to out-of-home placements, student referrals and their genesis, the amount of services received by child services agencies, and streamlining data collection procedures. CSG research shows juvenile populations in Indiana have decreased by more than 60% from 2007 to 2017. 

The goal for the commission will be to turn many of the findings into legislation for the 2022 session.

For more information, check out the linked article by the Indiana Lawyer
Thank you for reading. Watch for the next edition in December 2021.
Missed a newsletter? Past issues are archived on the committee's webpage.
Please do not reproduce or create new content from this material without the prior express written permission of CSG Midwest.
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