"Although the pace of criminal justice reform has accelerated at both the federal and state levels in the past decade, current initiatives have had only a modest effect on the size of the prison population. But over this period, three states – New York, New Jersey, and California – have achieved prison population reductions in the range of 25%. They have also seen their crime rates generally decline at a faster pace than the national average" (p. 1). This brief describes how these outcomes were achieved and explains other states can significantly reduce their prison population while ensuring public safety. Sections contained in this brief are: key findings; a decade of evolving criminal justice reform; limited impact on incarceration to date; substantial prison population declines in three states; impact of prison populations reductions on crime; policies and practices that reduced the prison population in the three states; the limited relationship between incarceration and crime; international experience in prison population reduction; potential for substantial prison population reductions; three goals for expanding prison population reduction; and conclusion.
"There are few areas of American society where racial disparities are as profound and as troubling as in the criminal justice system. In fact, racial perceptions of crime and race influenced policy development have been intimately tied to the development of mass incarceration. Yet there is growing evidence that the high rate of minority imprisonment is excessive for public safety goals and damaging for family and community structures in high incarceration neighborhoods. This briefing paper provides an overview of racial disparities in the criminal justice system and a framework for developing and implementing remedies for these disparities." Six sections comprise this publication: incorporating racial equality as a goal in criminal justice reform; overview of racial equality in the criminal justice system; causes of racial disparity—socioeconomic inequality, handicapping of low-income people by resource allocation decisions, disparate racial impact of ostensibly race-neutral policies, and implicit racial bias among criminal justice professionals; best practices for reducing racial disparity; implementation strategies and metrics for success; and conclusion.
“Scholars are beginning to analyze the relative contributions of changes in crime rates, criminal justice policies, economics, and demographics to the slowing growth rate of the prison system, but one area that has gone largely unexplored is the impact of such changes on racial disparities in imprisonment. As is well known, black/white disparities in the use of incarceration have been profound for quite some time. Since the 1980s a series of analyses have documented these trends at the national level as well as examining variation in disparity among the states. As prison populations fluctuate, though, the relative rate of incarceration among racial groups may or may not reflect prevailing patterns. Further, as the prospect of a declining prison population has now become a distinct possibility for the next decade, it will become increasingly important to monitor whether reduced incarceration is experienced in similar ways across racial/ethnic groups” (p. 1). This report is an initial look at whether this trend of decreasing prison populations is reflected in the numbers of minority women being incarcerated. Sections of this report cover: slowing growth in incarceration; race and gender disparity in incarceration; changing racial composition of women’s incarceration—analyzing changes, changes in offending, prison population by offense, and changing socioeconomics; conclusion; and recommendations to address racial disparities.