Select Texas Leaders Chosen to Attend the 50-State Summit on Public Safety

Austin, Texas—November 13&14, 2017—Rep. James White Chairman House Corrections, Bryan Collier Executive Director T.D.C.J, Sonya Gaines Health & Human Services Commission, Dennis D. Wilson Limestone County Sheriff joined corrections directors, state legislators, law enforcement officials and behavioral health professionals from all 50 states at The 50-State Summit on Public Safety earlier this week. This event was an unprecedented gathering designed to help critical leaders examine individual state trends in crime, arrests, corrections populations, addiction and mental health, and ultimately develop integrated approaches to addressing their unique challenges.

The two-day summit, organized by The Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center in partnership with the Association of State Correctional Administrators (ASCA), served as an opportunity for state delegates to join together to discuss complex crime trends and data. While violent crime overall remains lower than a decade ago, its rate is no longer universally declining and is rising in some communities and overall in 18 states. That’s coupled with record lows in property crime rates. The opioid crisis has escalated to a national emergency, and law enforcement leaders describe engaging with more people with serious mental illnesses than ever before.

Limestone County Sheriff Dennis D. Wilson was honored and impressed to be a part of the Texas delegation chosen to attend this public safety conference. The training provided by the council of State Governments was excellent and will be very useful in planning and implement our future criminal justice issues. Being able to network with other state and federal criminal justice officials, will only strengthen our efforts in making sound judgments for all involved in state and federal government operations.

Each of the 50 state teams that attended the event were led by their respective state corrections administrators and included a key state legislator, a law enforcement official and a local behavioral health professional. Attendees of the event—which featured 35 behavioral health directors, 15 chiefs of police, 12 sheriffs, and 41 state legislators—received state-specific workbooks developed through interviews conducted by the CSG Justice Center in each state. Those individual state data include trends in crime, arrests, recidivism, correctional populations, and behavioral health in each state, as well as case studies and examples of lessons learned.

The summit featured discussions with leaders representing all elements of the criminal justice system from states across the country, as well as national voices, including U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin, JustLeadershipUSA’s Glenn E. Martin and Darlene Hutchinson Biehl, director of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office for Victims of Crime.

“The amount of data available, and opinions about what that data means, sometimes makes you feel like you’re drinking from a fire hose. There’s no shortage of action that can be taken as a corrections leader,” said John Wetzel, secretary of Pennsylvania’s Department of Corrections, who also serves as chair of the CSG Justice Center and vice president of ASCA. “This summit was a key opportunity to engage with colleagues across agencies and at all levels of government to better understand that data and accelerate the adoption of programs that truly work.”

State teams emerged from the summit having identified clear strategies for reducing crime and recidivism, improving outcomes for people with mental health and substance use disorders, and reducing spending on prisons and jails.

State teams are now encouraged to request follow-up visits from the CSG Justice Center. Up to 25 states will be selected and invited to request additional technical assistance from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance. Additionally, the CSG Justice Center will be releasing a report in January 2018 that includes a detailed analysis of the state and local data discussed at this week’s summit.

The 50-State Summit on Public Safety was made possible by funding from by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Pew Charitable Trusts, and the Tow Foundation.

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