SLC Human Services & Public Safety Committee

Among states’ most pressing concerns are ensuring the public’s general welfare and protection, with both areas constituting increasing shares of state budgets. States have been taking the lead in health policy, welfare reform and child care, and have maintained their predominant role in the areas of public safety, corrections and sentencing. The Human Services & Public Safety Committee has a broad agenda which most typically addresses the challenges states face in the areas of human services and corrections, and policies and programs utilized to meet them. The Committee has undertaken assessments of Medicaid and reform; nursing shortages; long-term healthcare; and such corrections issues as criminal justice DNA statutes; the aging inmate population; female offenders; mental health parity in prisons, and prison staffing patterns in Southern states.

2017-18
Acting Chair

Senator
Katrina Shealy

South Carolina

2017-18
Vice Chair

Vacant

Immediate
Past Chair

(Former) Senator
Doug Overbey

Tennessee

Committee
Liaison

Roger Moore

Roger Moore
Policy Analyst

Recent Research


Policy Analysis | June 11, 2018

Distracted Driving Laws in SLC Member States

In recent years, states across the South have enacted laws to mitigate distracted driving caused by the proliferation of cell phones and other portable electronic devices. The extent to which the laws impact drivers varies by state, though there are similarities across the region. Fourteen of 15 SLC member states, for example, prohibit all drivers from texting while driving and one, Missouri, prohibits texting by all drivers under the age of 21. Similarly, 10 of the 15 states prohibit all usage of wireless communication devices by novice drivers, generally defined as drivers under 18 years old who hold restricted licenses. Most states in the region have not implemented statewide bans on hand-held devices; however, several states have prohibited the use of hand-held devices in certain areas, such as designated school zones. Only Georgia and West Virginia have banned hand-held devices for all drivers.

Penalties vary widely across the region. Most states have implemented a tiered system whereby drivers face increasingly severe penalties for each subsequent offense. Eight states have fees that do not surpass $100 per violation, while another five states have fees that range between $100 and $300. Two states, Arkansas and Louisiana, permit fees up to $500 and $1,000, respectively, for repeat offenders.

Alabama does not have a statewide hand-held device ban for drivers. However, all drivers are prohibited from texting while driving, and novice drivers – defined as 16- and 17-year-old drivers who hold a restricted driver’s license – are prohibited from using all wireless communication devices while operating a vehicle. Drivers who violate the texting ban are subject to a $25 fine for the first offense, $50 fine for the second offense and a $75 fine for each subsequent offense. Novice drivers who use a mobile device while operating a vehicle are required to hold a restricted driver’s license for an additional six months or until they are 18 years old.

Code of Ala. § 32-5A-350; § 32-6-7.2

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SLC Regional Resource | May 8, 2018

Opioids and Organ Donations: A Tale of Two Crises

Nick Bowman, Research and Publications Associate

Download the full report (PDF)

At least 42,249 Americans died from opioid overdoses in 2016, a 28 percent increase from 2015, according to the National Center for Health Statistics, a division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Opioids now kill more Americans each year than guns, breast cancer or automobile accidents and have contributed to the shortening of the average U.S. life expectancy for two consecutive years. The last recorded decrease in U.S. life expectancy was in 1993, due to the AIDS epidemic. The last time life expectancy decreased in two consecutive years was in 1962 and 1963 due to an influenza outbreak.

As of early April 2018, approximately 115,000 Americans were listed on the national organ transplant registry waiting on a lifesaving organ transplant, with a new person added to the list every 10 minutes. Despite advancements in technology and surgical techniques, a large gap remains between the number of organs needed and the supply of donated organs. While 95 percent of U.S. adults support organ donation, only 54 percent have enrolled to be organ donors. Every day, an average of 95 organ transplants are performed in the United States, and an average of 20 Americans die daily waiting for a transplant. Contributing to this tragic scenario is the fact that only three in 1,000 deaths in the United States occur in a manner conducive to organ donation.

This SLC Regional Resource raises policy considerations and highlights the connections between the ongoing opioid crisis and the national shortage of organs for transplantation. Additionally, an examination of the history and process of organ donation and transplants is provided, as well as actions taken by the federal government and state governments to facilitate and promote organ donation. A discussion of how the national opioid crisis, critical to this discussion, is affecting organ transplant rates is included.


Policy Analysis | June 22, 2017

Bail and Pretrial Reforms in Southern States

Mitchell Gray

Lawmakers in several SLC member states have enacted legislation aimed at reducing correctional populations and curtailing costs by addressing bail and pretrial options. According to the Vera Institute of Justice, 62 percent of people in jail are not serving sentences but, rather, waiting for their cases to be heard. While there are limited examples of extensive bail reform in SLC states, other pretrial options, such as court notification systems, supervision services, and other community-based programs, have been implemented. State lawmakers also have sought to increase felony theft thresholds: the monetary value that prosecutors use to categorize stolen money or property as a felony. Multiple SLC states have enacted legislation detailing methods for collecting fines and fees from indigent defendants, for example, through individualized payment plans, reduced and/or deferred fines, or community service in lieu of owed payments. The information below reflects the trends in policies relating to bail reform and pretrial processes in SLC states.

Jail population by conviction status

Source: Prison Policy Initiative (accessed June 22, 2017)

Median annual pre-incarceration incomes for people in local jails unable to post a bail bond, ages 23-39, in $USD (2015), by race/ethnicity and gender.

Note: The median bail bond amount nationally is almost a full year’s income for the average person unable to post a bail bond.
Source: Prison Policy Initiative (accessed June 22, 2017)

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More SLC Research into Public Safety


SLC Regional Resource | April 1, 2017

Body-Worn Cameras: Laws and Policies in the South

Policy Analysis | March 30, 2017

Human Trafficking

Policy Analysis | June 14, 2016

Pardons in SLC Member States

Webinar | June 2, 2016

SLC States and REAL ID Requirements

Policy Analysis | July 1, 2010

What are the firearms laws in the SLC states?

SLC Special Series Report | June 1, 2008

Innovative Programs in Funding State Homeland Security Needs

SLC Regional Resource | February 1, 2000

The Proposed Interstate Compact for Adult Offender Supervision