Criminal justice reform worth continued discussion

Readers who missed last week’s series that Minot Daily News published, Outside Chances, taking a comprehensive look at the state of criminal justice reform and the penal system might want to consider taking a second look at the five days of coverage or accessing the stories online.

The series pointed out both the challenges to the system and to those in it as well as spotlighted efforts to address these challenges.

Those challenges include prison population and expense to taxpayers, the pressure on the system’s probation workers, the reintegration of former inmates into society, prepared for life on the outside, and more.

Some believe the solution is more prison space and less concentration on probation and other alternatives to incarceration.

Others believe that incarceration only creates a population of people lacking the skills and opportunities to fully function in free society.

Both perspectives have validity and there are ample examples to buoy either position. It isn’t just North Dakota facing the challenge. Every state is, and the issue has been on the agenda of the federal government as well.

Leann Bertsch, director of the North Dakota Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has been a leading voice for reform and the state’s Justice Reinvestment Initiative is among the efforts to change the system. Optimists believe that proper reforms can result in a win-win situation, saving taxpayer money and emphasizing rehabilitation over warehousing.

Identifying, building support for and implementing these changes is the difficulty. Yet the opportunity to better serve the public and better address flaws in the system is one worth pursuing.

Reform is certainly worth further discussion and debate. MDN believes that opportunity for a win-win solution is too significant to not pursue.

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