Wyoming’s prison population had steadily increased since 1980, but in 2015, it began a full decline. This decrease could be due to the passage of 2013 legislation, which mandates there be a possibility for parole for juveniles sentenced to life in prison.
In 2015, the Wyoming Department of Corrections (WDOC) proposed reform measures that would help curb the overcrowding of prisons. They included limiting prison admission, duration and re-entry, while reducing sentences for low-risk, non-violent offenders and providing treatment options for substance abusers.
Also in 2015, Wyoming passed two more pieces of legislation that provided alternative forms of prosecution for non-violent offers and granted inmates more rights. State legislators broadened the qualifications for deferred prosecution for first-time, non-violent drug offenders. In addition to this law, former Governor Mead (R) signed legislation that modifies the practices, procedures, and conditions for the restoration of voting rights to non-violent offenders.
Former Governor Mead (R) also signed a bill that allows for judges to consider alternative forms of sentencing to incarceration, establishes a good time reward system, and appropriates funds to substance abuse treatment and other rehabilitative programs.
Aside from prison reform, Wyoming legislature has instilled legislation that protects citizens from civil asset forfeiture. This bill follows another passed in 2016, which prevents the government from seizing individuals’ property without probable cause.
In 2019 Wyoming passed a series of bills on probation reform. These reforms include limiting the length of probation by placing a 36-month maximum on probation terms and establishing criteria for a judge to reduce a probation sentence based on social and mental health.
While more work is needed in reforming Wyoming’s criminal justice system, the efforts to reform probation and sentencing laws have made significant changes in the overall rates of incarceration in the state.
Identification of legislation should not be considered an endorsement of support of, or opposition to, such bills.