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The Prison Paradox: More Incarceration Will Not Make Us Safer

July 20, 2017

Despite its widespread use, research shows that the effect of incarceration as a deterrent to crime is minimal at best, and has been diminishing for several years. Indeed, increased rates of incarceration have no demonstrated effect on violent crime and in some instances may increase crime. There are more effective ways to respond to crime—evidenced by the 19 states that recently reduced both their incarceration and crime rates. This brief summarizes the weak relationship between incarceration and crime reduction, and highlights proven strategies for improving public safety that are more effective and less expensive than incarceration.

The Anatomy of Discretion: An Analysis of Prosecutorial Decision Making

December 17, 2012

Prosecuting attorneys enjoy exceptionally broad discretion in making decisions that influence criminal case outcomes. They make pivotal decisions throughout the life of a case with little public or judicial scrutiny. With support from the National Institute of Justice, the Vera Institute of Justice undertook research to better understand how prosecutors make decisions. Vera researchers combined statistical analyses with qualitative analyses, examining initial case screening and charging decisions, plea offers, sentence recommendations, and post-filing dismissals for multiple offense types in two moderately large prosecutors' offices. In addition to a technical report, the study produced a summary report and four podcasts.

Philadelphia's Less Crowded, Less Costly Jails: Taking Stock of a Year of Change and the Challenges That Remain

July 20, 2011

Examines factors behind the 2009-10 decrease in Philadelphia's jail population; strategies for managing pretrial, sentenced, and probation or parole violator populations; and policies for further streamlining court processes and reducing jail populations.