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Hamilton Project (Washington DC)

This paper does a great job in explaining how your criminal justice system can greatly reduce incarceration while ensuring community safety. "We [the authors] argue that states should reevaluate their policy choices and reduce the scope and severity of several of the sentencing practices that they have implemented over the past twenty-five or thirty years. We propose that states introduce a greater degree of discretion into their sentencing and parole practices through two specific reforms: (1) a reduction in the scope and severity of truth-in-sentencing laws that mandate that inmates serve minimum proportions of their sentences, and (2) a reworking and, in many instances, abandonment of mandatory minimum sentences. We also propose that states create incentives for localities to limit their use of state prison systems" (p. 2). Five chapters follow an abstract: introduction; mass incarceration in the United States; a proposal to reduce incarceration through smarter use of prisons; questions and concerns; and conclusion.

A New Approach to Reducing Incarceration While Maintaining Low Rates of Crime Cover

"Crime and high rates of incarceration impose tremendous costs on society, with lasting negative effects on individuals, families, and communities. Rates of crime in the United States have been falling steadily, but still constitute a serious economic and social challenge. At the same time, the incarceration rate in the United States is so high—more than 700 out of every 100,000 people are incarcerated—that both crime scholars and policymakers alike question whether, for nonviolent criminals in particular, the social costs of incarceration exceed the social benefits … Despite the ongoing decline in crime, the incarceration rate in the United States remains at a historically unprecedented level. This high incarceration rate can have profound effects on society" and is extremely expensive for state and federal agencies (p. 1). This policy memo provides a clear and concise explanation of the impacts of incarceration on communities in the United States. The ten facts are organized into three chapters: the landscape of crime in the U.S.—offenders and victims; the extraordinary growth of mass incarceration in the U.S.; and the economic and social costs of crime and incarceration. Some of these facts include: the majority of criminal offenders are younger than age thirty; federal and state policies have driven up the incarceration rate over the past thirty years; and per capita expenditures on corrections more than tripled over the same time period.

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"Crime and high rates of incarceration impose tremendous costs on society, with lasting negative effects on individuals, families, and communities. These high costs highlight the need for both effective crime-prevention strategies and smart sentencing policies, in addition to strategies for reaching at-risk youths. On May 1st, The Hamilton Project at Brookings hosted a forum and released three new papers focusing on crime and incarceration in the United States … [Panels] discussed a new proposal by Steven Raphael of UC Berkeley and Michael Stoll of UCLA for reducing incarceration rates in the United States through sentencing reform and changes to the financial incentives facing state and local governments. A second panel discussed a new proposal by Jens Ludwig and Anuj Shah, both of the University of Chicago, outlining a strategy for scaling out an educational program—the "Becoming a Man" (BAM) program —to help disadvantaged youths recognize high-stakes situations in which their automatic responses may lead to trouble." The forum was comprised of three parts: "Welcome and Introductions" by Robert E. Rubin; Roundtable One: "A New Approach to Reducing Incarceration While Maintaining Low Rates of Crime" with Steven Raphael, Michael Stoll. Dean Esserman, Christine DeBerry, Daniel Nagin, and Melissa S. Kearney; and Roundtable Two: "A New Approach to Preventing Youth Violence and Dropout" with Jens Ludwig, Elizabeth Glazer, Robert Listenbee, Laurence Steinberg, and Jim Tankersley. This website offers access to abstracts for the three released papers from The Hamilton Project; the full event transcript (unedited); press release and pull quotes; audio for the three parts; event photos; video for the three parts; and the three papers on crime and incarceration in the United States. The three papers are "Ten Economic Facts about Crime and Incarceration in the United States" by The Hamilton Project, "A New Approach to Reducing Incarceration While Maintaining Low Rates of Crime" by Steven Raphael and Michael Stoll, and "Think Before You Act: A New Approach to Preventing Youth Violence and Dropout" by Jens Ludwig and Anuj Shah.

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This paper offers an innovative way to reduce the incarceration of juveniles in the United Sates based on randomized controlled trials in Chicago which showed a reduction in arrests for violent crime by an average of 40% with benefits to the community of almost 30 times the program's costs. "Improving the long-term life outcomes of disadvantaged youths remains a top policy priority in the United States. Unfortunately, long-term progress in improving outcomes like high school graduation rates and reduction of violent crime has been limited, partly because finding ways to successfully improve outcomes for disadvantaged youths (particularly males) has proven to be challenging. We believe one reason so many previous strategies have failed is because they at least implicitly assume that young people are forward-looking and consider the long-term consequences of their actions before they act. But a growing body of research in psychology and behavioral economics suggests that a great deal of everyone’s behavior happens intuitively and automatically, with little deliberate thought. Although it is often helpful for us to rely on automatic responses to guide our daily behavior, doing so can also get us into trouble, with consequences that are particularly severe for young people growing up in distressed urban areas where gangs, drugs, and guns are prevalent. We thus propose that the federal government aim to provide each teenager living in poverty in the United States with one year of behaviorally informed programming, intended to help youths recognize high-stakes situations when their automatic responses may be maladaptive" (p. 1).

› Think Before You Act: A New Approach to Preventing Youth Violence and Dropout Cover
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