Bucking the Trend: How Wyoming Can Reverse Course Through Reduced Incarceration and Lowered Costs
The trend is clear: a growing number of bills are introduced every year creating new crimes or increasing penalties, and legislation that would remedy Wyoming’s overburdened criminal justice system fails, resulting in a justice system that is at capacity.
Increasing crimes and penalties in Wyoming means the state is putting more and more people behind bars and under the supervision of government. One in every 130 Wyoming residents is incarcerated, and one in every 58 is under some form of criminal justice supervision, whether in prison, in jail, or on probation or parole. The number of people kept in jail pre-trial has nearly quadrupled since 1993, resulting in higher costs to local governments and thousands of individuals being incarcerated despite not having been convicted of a crime. If everyone who was in prison or under the supervision of the criminal justice system made up a Wyoming town, it would be the 10th largest town in the state. The largest factor contributing to this trend is the increasing number of state laws establishing new misdemeanors and felony crimes, and the move toward longer, harsher sentences for existing crimes.
The legislature has the power to reverse this trend, and reform a broken system.
Bucking the Trend recommends steps the legislature can take to mitigate its effects on Wyoming’s large and growing prison population and illustrates the negative impact of passing new crimes legislation. It highlights key legislation that, if passed, would reform Wyoming’s prison system effectively reducing incarceration rates and lessening the burden on the criminal justice system. The move toward reforming Wyoming’s criminal justice system and policies would help keep our state both safe and fiscally sound.