RD377 - Report on the Offender Population Forecasts (FY2017 to FY2022) – October 15, 2016

Executive Summary:
Forecasts of persons confined in state and local correctional facilities are essential for criminal justice budgeting and planning in Virginia. The forecasts are used to estimate operating expenses and future capital needs and to assess the impact of current and proposed criminal justice policies. The Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security oversees the forecasting process and, as required by the Appropriation Act, presents updated forecasts annually to the Governor, the Chairmen of the House Appropriations and Senate Finance Committees, and the Chairmen of the House and Senate Courts of Justice Committees.

To produce the offender forecasts, the Secretary's Office utilizes an approach known as "consensus forecasting." This process brings together policy makers, administrators, and technical experts from all branches of state government. The Technical Advisory Committee is composed of experts in statistical and quantitative methods from several agencies. While individual members of this Committee generate the offender forecasts, the Committee as a whole carefully scrutinizes each forecast according to the highest statistical standards. Selected forecasts are presented to the Secretary's Work Group. The Work Group evaluates the forecasts and provides guidance to the Technical Advisory Committee. The Work Group includes deputy directors and senior managers of criminal justice and budget agencies, as well as staff of the House Appropriations and Senate Finance Committees. Forecasts accepted by the Work Group then are presented to the Secretary's Policy Committee. Led by the Secretary, the Policy Committee reviews the various forecasts, making any adjustments deemed necessary to account for emerging trends or recent policy changes, and selects the official forecast for each offender population. The Policy Committee is made up of lawmakers, agency directors, and other top officials and includes representatives of Virginia's prosecutor, police, sheriff, and jail associations. Through the consensus process, a forecast is produced for each of the four major offender populations.

The forecasts, approved in September 2016, were based on all of the statistical and trend information known at the time that they were produced. A new jail data system, known as LIDS-CORIS, was implemented in June 2013. Challenges encountered after the launch of LIDS-CORIS were addressed by the developer and resulted in a series of revisions to the population data used to produce the adult state-responsible and local-responsible forecasts. Improvements in the LIDS-CORIS system and support programming, along with corrections and updates entered into the system by jail staff, led to subsequent updates of the data in June 2015 and September 2016. Due to the uncertainty regarding the time lag needed for LIDS-CORIS data to mature and stabilize, only data through December 2015 were used to generate the adult state-responsible and local-responsible population forecasts presented in this report.

Adult State-Responsible Confined Population. The largest of the forecasted populations, the state-responsible (SR) confined population includes offenders incarcerated in state prisons, as well as SR offenders housed in local and regional jails around the Commonwealth. After peaking at 39,158 in June 2008, the SR population averaged an annual decline of 327 (0.8%) through June 2012. Much of the decline during that period can be attributed to a decrease in the annual number of SR New Court Commitments (NCC) which dropped by an average of 228 (2.4%) per year during this time. This shift was consistent with observed changes in arrest patterns, a decline in felony sentencing events in circuit court, and a return to pre-2004 levels in the backlog of drug cases awaiting analysis at the Department of Forensic Science. Between June 2012 and June 2015, the SR population grew by an annual average of 432 (1.1%), reaching 39,146 offenders. During this same time period, the female SR population grew by an annual average of 173 (5.8%), reaching 3,343 offenders in June 2015. Based on the approved forecast, the total SR population is projected to increase by an average of 0.3% annually during the next six years to 38,977 offenders by the end of FY2022 (see table on page vii of the report). This forecast is lower than the forecast presented to the Governor and General Assembly last year. This is primarily driven by the forecast of SR NCC, which calls for slow growth of less than one percent per year throughout the forecast horizon. As required by Appropriation language, the forecast has been disaggregated to identify the number of probation violators within the overall population who may be appropriate for punishment via alternative sanctions. By the end of FY2022, it is projected that the state-responsible population will include 1,744 technical probation violators (i.e., offenders who violated the rules of probation but have not been convicted of a new crime).

Adult Local-Responsible Jail Population. The local-responsible jail population is defined as the number of persons confined in local and regional jails across the Commonwealth, excluding state and federal inmates and ordinance violators. Following substantial growth in FY2006 and FY2007, the average local-responsible jail population declined each succeeding year through FY2010. In FY2011, the average local-responsible jail population began to rise, with growth of less than 1% in FY2011 and 2012. The population increased by 3% in FY2013 and less than 1% in 2014, after which the population began dropping again. The average local-responsible jail population dropped about 1% in FY2015 and then 5% in 2016. Under the approved forecast, the local-responsible jail population is projected to return to an average annual growth of less than 1 % in FY2017, and in succeeding years, through 2022. This would bring the average local-responsible population to 19,120 in FY2022, slightly below the average population in 2015 (see table on page vii of the report).

Juvenile Direct Care Population. Juvenile offenders committed to the state are held in facilities operated by the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) or they are placed in re-entry, community placement, or halfway house programs(*1); collectively, these make up DJJ's total direct care population. The number of juveniles in the direct care population has been falling since FY2000. Some of the early decline may be attributed to a change in the minimum criteria for a juvenile to be committed to DJJ (from a felony or two Class 1 misdemeanor adjudications to a felony or four Class 1 misdemeanor adjudications) beginning July 1, 2000, as well as subsequent statutory changes discussed later in this report. These policy changes alone cannot explain the persistent downward trend in commitments. At court services units, the point of entry into the juvenile justice system, the total number of juvenile intake cases has declined for the eleventh consecutive year. In addition, DJJ has implemented procedures that include the use of validated risk assessment instruments in numerous aspects of community and facility operations in order to reserve juvenile correctional beds for those who represent the greatest risk to public safety. In FY2016, the total direct care population averaged 406, a decrease of 103 from the previous year. The forecast for the direct care population anticipates a continued decline through FY2018. Beginning in FY2018, this population is expected to level off. For FY2022, the average population is projected to be 258 juveniles (see table on page vii of the report).

Juvenile Detention Home Population. Juveniles held in local or commission-operated juvenile detention homes around the Commonwealth make up the juvenile local-responsible population. The juvenile detention home population declined from an average of 1,058 in FY2007 to an average of 726 in FY2013. Lower numbers of intakes at court services units and procedures to reduce detention of low-risk juveniles have contributed to the downward trend. The population increased slightly to 734 in FY2014 due to longer lengths-of-stay, but decreased to 642 in FY2016 due to drop in detainments (admissions). The average detention home population is projected to drop to 408 juveniles in FY2022 (see table on page vii of the report).
(*1) DJJ operated halfway houses for the direct care population beginning in July 2012. Due to budget reductions, the halfway houses were closed in January 2014.