Report

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.

The report is available for download below.

PDF iconBucking the Trend Report 

Date

Tuesday, November 7, 2017 - 9:00am

Featured image

Bucking the Trend

Show featured video/image

Hide banner image

Override default banner image

Bucking the Trend Banner

Hide sidebar

Related issues

Criminal Justice

Documents

Show related content

Tweet Text

[node:title]

Type

Menu parent dynamic listing

21

Wyoming prisoners are asking for more help on their criminal cases, appeals, and sentences, according to this year's Incarceration in Wyoming report released today by the American Civil Liberties Union of Wyoming.

Compiled from complaints received from prisoners in Wyoming, Incarceration in Wyoming provides details about the number and nature of complaints the organization received in 2013. Prisoners requesting assistance with their criminal cases generated nearly fifteen percent of complaints from Department of Corrections prisoners, which is more than double the number from the previous year, and over twenty percent of complaints from prisoners in jails.

The hallmark of a legitimate justice system is fairness. Many people in America and in Wyoming are serving sentences that are out of proportion to their crimes – many of which are non-violent. This hurts both our communities and taxpayers, and the ACLU says we need to rethink the pricey practice of keeping people behind bars. Keeping communities safe and reducing overincarceration are not incompatible.

Incarceration costs between $35,500 and $53,750 per prisoner per year. "It is not a prudent use of our taxpayers' dollars to spend $150 million per year on corrections in a state where only one in ten crimes is considered violent," says Jennifer Horvath, staff attorney for the ACLU of Wyoming. "We can reduce the amount we spend on locking people up – not by slashing budgets and forcing prison officials to take shortcuts and cut rehabilitative programming, but by reconsidering who we send to prison in the first place. Applying fiscal responsibility, accountability, and evidence-based practices, states around the nation are adopting bipartisan criminal justice reforms. Wyoming lawmakers can do the same."

Occasionally, people ask why the ACLU does work on behalf of prisoners. The United States and Wyoming constitutions ban cruel and unusual punishment. In addition to its other work on civil liberties, the ACLU advocates for safe and humane conditions of confinement, and expanding prisoners' freedom of religion, expression, and association. About 97% of prisoners in Wyoming return to our communities. It is important that we don't just punish them, but we return them to society in better shape than when they left.

"We remain committed to our work in prisons and jails in Wyoming, which has brought about significant improvements to the conditions of confinement in our state," said Linda Burt, executive director of the ACLU of Wyoming. "Our office continues to receive complaints at an alarming rate, but it's encouraging that the majority of jail officials and the Wyoming Department of Corrections are responsive when we contact them about a complaint."

The report includes a directory of all Wyoming Department of Corrections institutions and county jails, along with "Know Your Rights" resource guides. The "Know Your Rights" guides are provided by the Wyoming ACLU to inform prisoners of their constitutional rights based on the nature of their complaint.

Incarceration in Wyoming is available for download below. 

Date

Friday, May 23, 2014 - 3:45pm

Featured image

Behind Bars

Show featured video/image

Hide banner image

Hide sidebar

Related issues

Criminal Justice

Documents

Show related content

Tweet Text

[node:title]

Type

Menu parent dynamic listing

21

Stay informed

ACLU of Wyoming is part of a network of affiliates

Learn more about ACLU National
Subscribe to RSS - Report