Prison Reform

Featured

Conditions inside prisons and the quality of services provided to prisoners can significantly impact outcomes for the incarcerated population and the wider community. RAND research has considered the quality of health care provided in California's prisons, has analyzed the impact of correctional education on employment outcomes for prisoners, and is evaluating the world's first Social Impact Bond funding model for prison services.

  • Commentary

    Investing in Social Change: Lessons Learned from Foundation-Funded Criminal Justice Research

    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.

    Jul 20, 2021

  • Commentary

    Defund Prisons, Not Police

    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.

    Aug 9, 2021

Explore Prison Reform

  • U.S. President Barack Obama tours the El Reno Federal Correctional Institution in El Reno, Oklahoma, July 16, 2015

    Commentary

    Obama Commutes Sentences of 46 Drug Offenders. Now for the Hard Part

    Last month, President Obama commuted more sentences in a single day than any president since Lyndon Johnson. But commutation doesn't erase a criminal conviction.

    Aug 10, 2015

  • The U.S. Capitol Building, Washington, DC

    Blog

    The 2015 Summer Reading List for Congress

    With Capitol Hill slowing for August recess, this list of must-read research and commentaries will help ensure that policymakers are ready to dive right back in this fall.

    Aug 5, 2015

  • Report

    Report

    Public Safety Realignment in Twelve California Counties

    California legislation grants flexibility to counties in implementing public safety realignment. This report determines whether counties continued and expanded existing practices or took the opportunity to change correctional business as usual.

    Jun 29, 2015

  • Group of friends making a toast

    Commentary

    Could You Lose Your License to Drink?

    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.

    Jun 23, 2015

  • Offenders read and write papers inside the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary library located in the Darrington Unit of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice men's prison in Rosharon, Texas

    Commentary

    Using Education to Stop the Prison Revolving Door

    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.

    Sep 30, 2014

  • Events @ RAND Audio Podcast

    Multimedia

    Commencement Weekend Policy Dialogue on Criminal Justice

    In this podcast, recorded during the Pardee RAND Graduate School’s 2014 commencement weekend, Susan L. Marquis, the school’s dean, moderates a policy discussion on criminal justice with a panel of experts.

    Jun 20, 2014

  • Serving Time or Wasting Time?

    Infographic

    Correctional Education Can Make a Difference

    Inmates who participate in any kind of educational program behind bars are up to 43 percent less likely to reoffend and return to prison. They also are more likely to find a job, and the social stability that comes with it, after their release. Every dollar invested in correctional education saves nearly five in reincarceration costs over three years.

    May 22, 2014

  • a man holding a book on his lap

    Commentary

    Sending Prisoners to College Will Save You Money

    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.

    Apr 11, 2014

  • Mexican migrants migrants clamber atop a freight train bound for the U.S.-Mexican border

    Periodical

    RAND Review Examines Immigration, Defense Policies, the ACA, and Correctional Education

    Stories in RAND's flagship journal discuss U.S. and Mexican immigration and labor reforms; British, French, and German defense policies in the face of austerity; seven ramifications of the Affordable Care Act; and the cost-effectiveness of correctional education programs.

    Nov 26, 2013

  • Inmates sit in a classroom at the Orange County jail

    Commentary

    To Stop Prisons' Revolving Door

    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.

    Sep 16, 2013

  • News Release

    News Release

    Education and Vocational Training in Prisons Reduces Recidivism, Improves Job Outlook

    Inmates who participate in correctional education programs have a 43 percent lower odds of returning to prison than those who do not. Employment after release is 13 percent higher among prisoners who participated in either academic or vocational education programs than those who did not.

    Aug 22, 2013

  • prisoners attending a class

    Report

    Education and Vocational Training in Prisons Reduces Recidivism, Improves Job Outlook

    Inmates who participate in correctional education programs have a 43 percent lower odds of returning to prison than those who do not. Employment after release is 13 percent higher among prisoners who participated in either academic or vocational education programs than those who did not.

    Aug 22, 2013

  • prison

    Research Brief

    How Effective is Correctional Education?

    One strategy to counter recidivism is to provide education to inmates while incarcerated so that they have the knowledge, training, and skills to support a successful return to their communities.

    Aug 22, 2013

  • inmates outside the Orleans Parish Prison

    Commentary

    New Approach to Prison and the War on Drugs

    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.

    Aug 13, 2013

  • Events @ RAND Audio Podcast

    Multimedia

    California's Prisoners Dilemma

    At this January 2012 Policy Forum, experts discuss the public health implications of a U.S. Supreme Court order to reduce the prison population by more than 30,000.

    Jan 24, 2012

  • A woman is checked into the Orange County jail in Santa Ana, California, May 24, 2011, photo by Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

    Commentary

    California's Prisoner Shuffle

    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.

    Aug 19, 2011

  • Journal Article

    Journal Article

    The Current State of Quality of Care Measurement in the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation

    California's prisons, which are operating under receivership for medical care, need help in improving the quality of health care they provide.

    Apr 1, 2011

  • Commentary

    Commentary

    Prison Health Care

    California's ill and aging prison population needs improved health care — not just as a matter of compassion, but to protect the health and safety of the rest of us, writes Lois M. Davis.

    Jul 12, 2007

  • Commentary

    Commentary

    Focus on the Worst Ex-Cons and Boost Community-Based Rehab

    Focus on the Worst Ex-Cons and Boost Community-Based Rehab in Riverside Press-Enterprise

    May 27, 2007

  • News Release

    News Release

    RAND Study Finds No Evidence of Racial Bias in Federal Prosecutors' Decisions to Seek Death Penalty from 1995–2000

    A statistical analysis of federal prosecutors' decisions about whether to seek the death penalty has found no evidence of racial bias.

    Jul 17, 2006