The United States spends billions on prisons, jails, and juvenile detention facilities. New lows in incarceration rates present a chance to shift resources away from costly correctional facilities and toward education, job training, transportation, and other community services.
Investing in policy-focused research can be among the ways foundations catalyze change. Impactful work may involve strong collaborations across funders, researchers, and community partners. And it may require flexibility in design and execution as well as a commitment to getting the findings into the hands of decisionmakers who can use the findings to create change.
RAND recognizes that serving the public good requires tackling the factors that contribute to inequities head-on. Current projects focus on such issues as environmental racism, mass incarceration, and anti-Asian violence.
Prisons in the UK are experiencing record numbers of suicides and other violent incidents, as well as staff shortages. Policymakers working on prison reform need more effective ways to measure the performance of prison programs.
Criminal justice reform requires creating demand for bold ideas about simultaneously reducing incarceration and crime. Given the prominent role alcohol plays in crime — and the strong results from South Dakota's 24/7 Sobriety program — suspending one's “license to drink” seems well worth considering.
Providing education and vocational training to inmates is a cost-effective way to reduce recidivism rates, thus shrinking prison populations and easing the strain on prison budgets. Education is far less expensive than incarceration.
Correctional education works for states because it saves money and shrinks prison populations. It works for prisoners, the public, law enforcement, and the judicial system because educated prisoners are less likely to return to their criminal ways once released.
If California wants to reduce its prison population, it needs to address recidivism, and the best way to do this is through education and job training. Cutting education and vocational training may seem like a tempting way to plug short-term budget gaps, but it actually ends up costing the system more over time.
If you want to reduce cocaine consumption and drug-related crime, you get more bang for the buck if you put money into treatment rather than paying for the increase in incarceration produced by federal mandatory minimum sentences, writes Beau Kilmer.
The state needs to deal with prison overcrowding and inadequate medical care for prisoners in ways that don't simply transfer the burden to county criminal justice systems and the healthcare safety nets of local communities, writes Lois Davis.