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Efforts to Reduce Jail Populations in Philadelphia: Implementation Lessons from the Safety and Justice Challenge

March 31, 2023

Jail incarceration continues to be a main driver of the mass incarceration crisis in the United States and to negatively affect individuals, families, and communities. Racial disparities in local jail populations are significant, particularly to the detriment of Black communities. Involvement in the criminal legal system, even when brief, can have severe consequences, including barriers to sustaining employment and securing stable housing, poor physical and mental health stemming from chronic stress and limited access to adequate health care, and disruptions to family relationships and social support networks.To address these issues, Philadelphia implemented a multipronged reform plan supported by the Safety and Justice Challenge (SJC) to reduce its jail population and associated racial and ethnic disparities. Since 2015, Philadelphia has significantly reduced its jail population through these SJC efforts, which included closing a jail facility, launching a strategy across decision points in the criminal legal system, strengthening collaboration and cross-agency partnerships, launching a formal committee to represent community members' perspectives, and analyzing data to identify racial and ethnic disparities across decision points.This report describes Philadelphia's major SJC strategies, documents how it navigated challenges and advanced tangible reform efforts, and explores the perceived impacts of these strategies on its efforts to engage community members, reduce local jail use, and implement system reforms that advance equity.

Community Engagement Strategies to Advance Justice Reform: Implementation Lessons from Buncombe County, North Carolina, Cook County, Illinois, and New Orleans

March 15, 2023

Communities across the nation are wrestling with how to identify and implement effective reforms that reduce structural inequities in the criminal legal system, promote community safety, and right-size operations of the criminal legal system to achieve more equitable outcomes and increased safety. Research suggests the most inspired and transformative solutions to such intractable problems come from collaborative partnerships between policymakers, criminal legal system leaders, and community members.However, many communities struggle with community engagement because of the strained relationships between the criminal legal system and communities that have historically been criminalized by that system or alienated by civic leaders. Fortunately, some communities have made marked progress. The MacArthur Foundation's Safety and Justice Challenge (SJC) initiative to reduce the use of jails prioritized authentic engagement with community members across its grantees to build trust, enhance problem solving, and promote mutual accountability for justice reform.This report, which is part of a series of case studies highlighting the work of the SJC initiative, examines the community engagement strategies developed and implemented by three SJC communities: Buncombe County, North Carolina; Cook County, Illinois; and New Orleans. This report documents how these sites navigated challenges and advanced tangible reform efforts, and it explores the perceived impacts of these strategies on the sites' efforts to engage community members, reduce local jail use, and implement system reforms that advance equity. We conclude with a discussion of common themes in the sites' experiences implementing those strategies and recommendations for other communities seeking to advance community engagement.Sites used a variety of community engagement strategies, such as conducting listening sessions, hiring people with lived experience of the criminal legal system to organize events, and using art to receive community feedback on public safety.Common challenges from the three participating sites include navigating long-standing mistrust between community members and government, recruitment and retention in community engagement workgroups, and shifting strategies because of COVID-19.Recommendations and lessons learned from the three sites include ensuring proper resources are available to support community engagement efforts; communicating expectations and the likely pace of progress with community members; considering the accessibility of meetings; elevating the voices of people of color directly impacted by the criminal legal system; providing benefits to community members who attend meetings; leveraging technology to engage the community; and ensuring a diverse group of people is engaged.

Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie 2023

March 14, 2023

Can it really be true that most people in jail are legally innocent? How much of mass incarceration is a result of the war on drugs, or the profit motives of private prisons? How has the COVID-19 pandemic changed decisions about how people are punished when they break the law? These essential questions are harder to answer than you might expect. The various government agencies involved in the criminal legal system collect a lot of data, but very little is designed to help policymakers or the public understand what's going on. As public support for criminal justice reform continues to build — and as the pandemic raises the stakes higher — it's more important than ever that we get the facts straight and understand the big picture.Further complicating matters is the fact that the U.S. doesn't have one "criminal justice system;" instead, we have thousands of federal, state, local, and tribal systems. Together, these systems hold almost 2 million people in 1,566 state prisons, 98 federal prisons, 3,116 local jails, 1,323 juvenile correctional facilities, 181 immigration detention facilities, and 80 Indian country jails, as well as in military prisons, civil commitment centers, state psychiatric hospitals, and prisons in the U.S. territories.This report offers some much-needed clarity by piecing together the data about this country's disparate systems of confinement. It provides a detailed look at where and why people are locked up in the U.S., and dispels some modern myths to focus attention on the real drivers of mass incarceration and overlooked issues that call for reform.

A Proposal to Reduce Unnecessary Incarceration: Introducing the Public Safety and Prison Reduction Act

March 14, 2023

For decades, the federal government used its grant-making power to spur states to incarcerate more people and to impose longer sentences. It should now use that power to reverse course.

Women’s Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie 2023

March 1, 2023

With growing public attention to the problem of mass incarceration, people want to know about women's experiences with incarceration. How many women are held in prisons, jails, and other correctional facilities in the United States? Why are they there? How are their experiences different from men's? Further, how has the COVID-19 pandemic changed the number of women behind bars? These are important questions, but finding those answers requires not only disentangling the country's decentralized and overlapping criminal legal systems, but also unearthing the frustratingly limited data that's broken down by gender.This report provides a detailed view of the 172,700 women and girls incarcerated in the United States, and how they fit into the even broader picture of correctional control. We pull together data from a number of government agencies and break down the number of women and girls held by each correctional system by specific offense. In this updated report, we've also gone beyond the numbers, using rare self-reported data from a national survey of people in prison, to offer new insights about incarcerated women's backgrounds, families, health, and experiences in prison. This report, produced in collaboration with the ACLU's Campaign for Smart Justice, answers the questions of why and where women are locked up — and so much more.

State Strategies To Address The Needs Of Justice-Involved Youth Impacted By Collateral Consequences

February 23, 2023

Youth involved in the juvenile justice system routinely face a variety of repercussions beyond detention. Although some of these may be directly related to the violation that occurred, there are many other secondary effects that can result from their system involvement. These secondary repercussions, or collateral consequences, can negatively impact youth and their families upon even the lowest level of engagement with the juvenile justice system. Such side effects can restrict a youth's ability to recover and develop into a productive and self-sustaining adult citizen.To better understand the range of collateral consequences youth may face, NGA conducted a series of learning calls and hosted a virtual roundtable titled "Strategies to Address the Needs of Juveniles Impacted by Collateral Consequences" during the fall of 2022. This roundtable convened national, state, and local subject-matter experts to explore the breadth of collateral consequences faced by justice-involved youth, the challenges and barriers policymakers face when addressing these consequences and policy options state leaders may consider to mitigate the negative effects that may result when youth interact with the juvenile justice system. This publication documents these high-level discussions and highlights key policy strategies for Governors' offices to consider addressing this issue.  

Looking Beyond the Sentence: Examining Policy Impacts on Racial Disparities in Federal Sentencing Across Stages and Groups, and Over Time

January 12, 2023

Funded by the National Institute of Justice [15PNIJ-21-GG-02817-RESS], we used publicly available federal sentencing data from the U.S. Sentencing Commission to measure racial disparities for multiple race groups and stages of sentencing over time (fiscal years 1999-2021). We 1) measured racial disparities between matched cases across three stages of federal sentencing, represented by two elements each; 2) identified at which points in time the disparities changed significantly using time series plots and structured break analyses; and 3) used this information to systematically review federal policies to identify which might have contributed to significant decreases in racial disparities. In this report, we discuss the study's purpose, methods, results, and conclusions.

Trends in Correctional Control by Race and Sex

December 6, 2022

American prison populations have long been characterized by racial and ethnic disparities. U.S. Census Bureau data on incarcerated persons from 1870 through 1980 show that black incarceration rates ranged from three to nine times those of whites, depending upon the decade and region of the country.In recent years, racial disparities in imprisonment have decreased. This Council on Criminal Justice report updates and advances earlier presentations of data on disparities.

Probation Reform: A tool kit for juvenile justice state advisory groups

December 1, 2022

Nationally, probation is the most widely used sanction for young people who come into contact with the youth justice system. However, because of the surveillance-based approach to probation and the high number of conditions placed on many young people, probation can result in young people going deeper into the system and derailing their chances for positive futures. Moreover, there is no evidence that probation practices that rely on lengthy court conditions and compliance-oriented practices are successful in improving youth behavior. In fact, research shows that traditional, surveillance-oriented probation is particularly ineffective at preventing or deterring delinquent behavior, with especially poor results for youth at low risk of rearrest.States and communities across the country are working to transform probation using new approaches focused on youth development. As jurisdictions look to the possibility of closing youth prisons, many are reimagining the existing probation system in a way that both raises the ceiling and the floor for who is eligible: reducing the number of low-level offenses that result in probation, while opening doors and looking to probation as an alternative in more serious cases. More probation departments are reducing the number of young people placed on probation by expanding and improving available diversion programming. At the same time, communities are looking at probation as an alternative for young people with more serious charges who previously may have been placed in detention or other out-of-home placement.Diversion efforts have been linked to several benefits including reducing rearrests or reoffending and avoiding deeper involvement with the juvenile justice system. Diversion also helps avoid harms that can come from experiences with the justice system, such as stigma and traumatization.State Advisory Groups (SAGs) are uniquely positioned within their states to help inform, influence and support policymakers and juvenile justice practitioners as they seek to transform the use of probation. Published by the Coalition for Juvenile Justice, this tool kit aims to help SAGs better understand and support probation transformation.

Juvenile Justice: Young People and Restorative Justice

November 14, 2022

Restorative justice models present an alternative way for communities and lawmakers to understand and respond to crime. These models give people who have been harmed the opportunity to be heard, ask questions, seek restoration and gain closure. At the same time, individuals responsible for the crime gain an opportunity to apologize and make amends.This report, produced by the National Conference of State Legislatures, examines restorative justice as a promising approach to juvenile justice reform. The document describes various restorative justice models and how they work to repair harm caused by delinquent acts while balancing the needs of the victim, the individual who committed the offense and the community at large.

Opportunities for Philanthropy in Louisiana’s Justice System

November 8, 2022

This report provides targeted recommendations for foundations and philanthropy as a supplement to research and findings presented in our 2022 report, "Louisiana Justice: Pre-trial, Incarceration, & Reentry." That report provides a high-level overview of the criminal legal system in Louisiana based on original statistical research and focus group interviews. 

Louisiana Justice: Pre-trial, Incarceration, & Reentry

November 8, 2022

This report provides a high-level system overview of Louisiana's justice system from pretrial to incarceration to re-entry and includes new data and insights from local advocates. Data included provides the most recent snapshot of Louisiana's prison population and the first close look at the impact of multi billing, or "habitual offender sentencing," including significant disparities of the use of the multi bill in Louisiana. An introductory letter highlights two significant issues that have not previously been studied or analyzed: multi-bill sentences and local housing of the state's prison populations.