Charlie Brown, Rowan County chief district court judge, spoke about criminal justice reform at the 50-State Summit on Public Safety, a first-of-its-kind event this week in Washington, D.C., that brought together voices from across the country to examine crime, corrections and behavioral health trends state by state.
Judge Brown was invited to speak about justice reinvestment - a nationwide, bipartisan movement to reform the criminal justice system, reduce recidivism, lower costs and use the savings to reinvest in public safety. North Carolina is considered a national leader in justice reinvestment, and Brown has been involved in the effort since 2010. He now leads the N.C. Sentencing and Policy Advisory Commission, which evaluates the progress of justice reinvestment in the state.
Brown and three others represented North Carolina at the Summit, held Nov. 13-14 and sponsored by the Council of State Governments Justice Center. Attendees included corrections leaders, law enforcement officials, key lawmakers and behavioral health professionals.
"Before the Justice Reinvestment Act was passed in North Carolina in 2011, 85 percent of prisoners were released without any supervision," said Judge Brown. "By adding post-release supervision to every single prison release as part of Justice Reinvestment, we have improved public safety."
Judge Brown said he thinks North Carolina should continue to support and enhance Justice Reinvestment initiatives, and he sees re-entry services - programs that support inmates upon release from prison as they re-join society - as a potential area of new focus. Re-entry services that are evidence-based and tailored to each community would further the goals put forward in the Justice Reinvestment Act, he said.
"Adding post-release supervision and other elements of the Justice Reinvestment Act have been very successful in improving public safety," Judge Brown said. "Now, the reform should continue by supporting re-entry programming that advances the gold standard of criminal justice system effectiveness: reduced recidivism."
The other North Carolina delegates to the 50-State Summit on Public Safety were N.C. Rep. Charles Graham, Nicole Sullivan with the N.C. Department of Public Safety, and Sonya Brown with the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.
About N.C. Sentencing and Policy Advisory Commission
The North Carolina Sentencing and Policy Advisory Commission was created by the General Assembly in 1990 to make recommendations for the modification of sentencing laws and policies, and for the addition, deletion, or expansion of sentencing options as necessary to achieve policy goals. The Commission has 28 members drawn from all three branches of government; from all areas of the criminal justice system; and from the public.