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Delaney, Ruth

"Local jails, which exist in nearly every town and city in America, are built to hold people deemed too dangerous to release pending trial or at high risk of flight. This, however, is no longer primarily what jails do or whom they hold, as people too poor to post bail languish there and racial disparities disproportionately impact communities of color. This report reviews existing research and data to take a deeper look at our nation’s misuse of local jails and to determine how we arrived at this point. It also highlights jurisdictions that have taken steps to mitigate negative consequences, all with the aim of informing local policymakers and their constituents who are interested in in reducing recidivism, improving public safety, and promoting stronger, healthier communities."

Sections of this report include: gateway to the criminal justice system—what a jail is; decades of growth; portrait of the jailed (mental illness); costs and consequences—worse case outcomes and decreased public safety, differential racial impact, accumulation of criminal justice debt, declining health, and harm to families and communities; diagnosing Los Angeles County's overcrowded jails; six key decision points that influence the use and size of jails—arrest (Broken Windows policing, and alternatives to arrest and detention), charge (in lieu of prosecution, and right-sizing the Jail in New Orleans), pretrial release and bail (what risk assessment is, facilitating pretrial release, and diversion and release opportunities during the typical criminal case trajectory flowchart), case processing (case processing reforms), disposition and sentencing (investing in alternative dispositions, and reentry and community supervision (using administrative data to prioritize jail reentry services, and improving community supervision and restructuring criminal justice debt); and conclusion. This website provides access to the full report, report summary, and a very good infographic.

Incarceration's Front Door: The Misuse of Jails in America Cover

“Since 2000, at least 29 states have taken steps to roll back mandatory sentences, with 32 bills passed in just the last five years. Most legislative activity has focused on adjusting penalties for nonviolent drug offenses through the use of one or a combination of the following reform approaches: 1) expanding judicial discretion through the creation of so-called “safety value” provisions, 2) limiting automatic sentence enhancements, and 3) repealing or revising mandatory minimum sentences. In this policy report, Vera’s Center on Sentencing and Corrections summarizes state-level mandatory sentencing reforms since 2000, raises questions about their impact, and offers recommendations to jurisdictions considering similar efforts.” This report contains these sections: introduction; background; new approaches to mandatory sentences; the impact of reforms; research and policy considerations; and future directions.

Playbook for Change Cover

“As the size and cost of jails and prisons have grown, so too has the awareness that public investment in incarceration has not yielded the expected return on public safety. Today, in the United States, an opportunity exists to reexamine the wisdom of our reliance on institutional corrections—incarceration in prisons or jails—and to reconsider the role of community-based corrections, which encompasses probation, parole, and pretrial supervision … States and counties are moving to shift the burden from institutional to community corrections, sending greater numbers of offenders to supervision agencies with heightened expectations of success but often without the additional resources necessary to do the job that is being asked of them … There is considerable variability within and across states in the way community corrections is organized and financed. Agency responsibilities and accountability also differ” (p. 2). Since this report explains what the current state of and emerging strategies for community corrections, anyone working to strengthen the field or seeking to understand the potential of community corrections to reduce the recidivism of offenders should read this report. Sections cover: what community corrections is; its current state; emerging best practices; current practices that need more research; recent policy changes in community corrections; and moving forward—recommendations to the field.

The Potential of Community Corrections Cover

"Jails are far more expensive than previously understood, as significant jail expenditures—such as employee salaries and benefits, health care and education programs for incarcerated people, and general administration—are paid for by county or municipal general funds, and are not reflected in jail budgets. Drawing on surveys from 35 jail jurisdictions from 18 states, this report determined that even the jurisdictions themselves had difficulty pinning down the total cost of their local jail or jail system. It also highlights how the surest way to safely cut costs is to reduce the number of people who enter and stay in jails. In doing so, jurisdictions will be able to save resources and make the investments necessary to address the health and social service needs of their communities, which have for too long landed at the doorstep of their jails." Sections contained in this report include: introduction; methods—measuring the price of jail; results—counting all the costs and the actual price of jails; a tale of two counties—inmate population drive costs; measuring a jail's cost savings; and conclusion. An appendix provides a summary of the survey's results.

The Price of Jails Cover
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