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Examining Disparity in Prison Classification Systems

While incarceration rates are declining overall, incarceration among black, American Indian, and Hispanic people continues to exceed incarceration rates among white people1. Throughout the country, departments of correction are analyzing ways they can reduce the consequences of this ongoing trend without sacrificing safety, including how classifications systems can contribute to disparities among incarcerated individuals.

In collaboration with the Massachusetts Department of Correction Executive Office of Public Safety and Security, the National Institute of Corrections will make available findings from a study intended to identify the racial and ethnic disparities found in classification systems. The results will be used to develop a model and toolkit that agencies can use to help them reduce the disparities that may be found in their current systems.

Researchers will visit several correctional facilities throughout the state of Massachusetts, examining classification from the perspective of both staff and the people they supervise as well as the steps that comprise classification and reclassification processes.

Researcher Spencer G. Lawson, PhD, a senior research scientist in the Law and Psychiatry program in the Implementation Science and Practice Advances Research Center at the University of Massachusetts Chan Medical School was recently awarded $600,000 in funding over four years from the National Institute of Justice to complete this project.

1 Prisoners in 2020 – Statistical Tables by E. Ann Carson, Ph.D., U.S. Department of Justice: Bureau of Justice Statistics. Accessed 11/13.2023. .

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