Incarceration

  • David Harding
  • Stephen Raphael
  • Joan Petersilia

Leaders: David Harding, Stephen Raphael, Joan Petersilia

Since the mid-1970s, the United States has experienced a precipitous rise in incarceration, with about 2.3 million U.S. adults now incarcerated in state and federal prisons. In recent years, there has been increasing pressure to wind down this commitment to mass imprisonment, and it’s accordingly important to study ways to reintegrate successfully. The Incarceration RG is tasked with monitoring and evaluating the relationship between poverty and sentencing, parole reform, probation, reintegration, and recidivism.

Poverty and the decline in prison population: Will the ongoing decline in California’s prison population bring about an increase in homelessness, mental health service use, and other poverty-relevant outcomes? This line of research will reveal whether ongoing declines in incarceration should be coordinated with increased funding for programs that may substitute for incarceration.

Arrests, race, and poverty: Is reducing arrests the only way to reduce criminal bookings (and the employment-reducing effects of such bookings)? There may be another way.

Incarceration - CPI Research

Title Author Media
Improving Parole Release in America Edward Rhine , Joan Petersilia, Kevin R Reitz

Improving Parole Release in America

Author: Edward Rhine , Joan Petersilia, Kevin R Reitz
Publisher: Federal Sentencing Reporter
Date: 12/2015

This article lays out a ten-point program for the improvement of discretionary parole-release systems in America. Taken together, our recommendations coalesce into an ambitious model that has never before existed in the United States. Even if adopted separately, our recommendations would achieve substantial incremental improvements in the current practices of all paroling systems.

Homelessness and Housing Insecurity Among Former Prisoners Claire W. Herbert , Jeffrey D. Morenoff , David Harding

Homelessness and Housing Insecurity Among Former Prisoners

Author: Claire W. Herbert , Jeffrey D. Morenoff , David Harding
Publisher: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences
Date: 11/2015

The United States has experienced dramatic increases in both incarceration rates and the population of insecurely housed or homeless persons since the 1980s. These marginalized populations have strong overlaps, with many people being poor, minority, and from an urban area. That a relationship between homelessness, housing insecurity, and incarceration exists is clear, but the extent and nature of this relationship is not yet adequately understood. We use longitudinal, administrative data on Michigan parolees released in 2003 to examine returning prisoners’ experiences with housing insecurity and homelessness. Our analysis finds relatively low rates of outright homelessness among former prisoners, but very high rates of housing insecurity, much of which is linked to features of community supervision, such as intermediate sanctions, returns to prison, and absconding. We identify risk factors for housing insecurity, including mental illness, substance use, prior incarceration, and homelessness, as well as protective “buffers” against insecurity and homelessness, including earnings and social supports.

Incarceration, Prisoner Reentry, and Communities Jeffrey D. Morenoff, David Harding

Incarceration, Prisoner Reentry, and Communities

Author: Jeffrey D. Morenoff, David Harding
Publisher: Annual Review of Sociology
Date: 07/2014

Since the mid-1970s, the United States has experienced an enormous rise in incarceration and accompanying increases in returning prisoners and in postrelease community correctional supervision. Poor urban communities are disproportionately impacted by these phenomena. This review focuses on two complementary questions regarding incarceration, prisoner reentry, and communities: (a) whether and how mass incarceration has affected the social and economic structure of American communities, and (b) how residential neighborhoods affect the social and economic reintegration of returning prisoners. These two questions can be seen as part of a dynamic process involving a pernicious feedback loop in which mass incarceration undermines the structure and social organization of some communities, thus creating more criminogenic environments for returning prisoners and further diminishing their prospects for successful reentry and reintegration.

Keeping Track: California Prison Downsizing and Its Impact on Local Criminal Justice Systems Joan Petersilia

Keeping Track: California Prison Downsizing and Its Impact on Local Criminal Justice Systems

Author: Joan Petersilia
Publisher: Harvard Law and Policy Review
Date: 06/2014

Passage of California’s Public Safety Realignment Act (AB 109) initiated the most sweeping correctional experiment in recent history. Launched on October 1, 2011, Realignment shifted responsibility for most lower-level offenders from the state to California’s 58 counties. By mid-2013, more than 100,000 felons had been diverted from state prison or parole to county jail or probation.

This report summarizes the results of interviews conducted with California stakeholders responsible for implementing the law. Stanford Law School researchers conducted 125 interviews in 21 counties to produce a snapshot of how California is faring under Realignment so far. We talked with police, sheriffs, judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, probation and parole agents, victim advocates, offenders, and social service representatives. Our goal was to determine how Realignment had influenced their agency’s work and what changes they would make to the law.

Our interviews revealed a justice system undergoing remarkable changes, arguably unprecedented in depth and scope. Stakeholders’ opinions varied widely, and their comments reflected their role in the system more than the county they represented. Overall, probation officials were the most enthusiastic champions of Realignment, welcoming the momentum the legislation provided their rehabilitation focus. Probation departments have opened day reporting centers, expanded the use of risk assessment tools, and worked hard with community partners to establish quality evidence-based programs for offenders. Public defenders are also optimistic but expressed concerns about the longer county jail terms their clients face and the conditions under which they are served. Conversely, prosecuting attorneys generally gave Realignment negative reviews, lamenting their loss of discretion under the law. Judges expressed mixed opinions, although most were concerned about a loss of discretion and said AB 109 had greatly increased the courts’ workload. Law enforcement — both front line police and sheriffs — varied more than any other group in their assessment of Realignment, with their opinions largely influenced by local jail capacity. While most police applauded the spirit of Realignment, including the expansion of local control and treatment options for offenders, all of those interviewed worried about declining public safety. Sheriffs were challenged by overloaded county jails, which in many counties have been strained by a flood of inmates and a tougher criminal population that has increased the likelihood of jail violence. Sheriffs also noted that longer jail stays were challenging their ability to provide adequate medical and mental health care, and that crowding was forcing them to release some offenders early. On the positive end of the spectrum, most stakeholders said Realignment had spawned increased collaboration at all levels of the criminal justice system and a more holistic view of offender management.

Stakeholders recommended several changes to Realignment, suggesting that the Legislature: (1) allow an offender’s entire criminal history to be considered when determining whether the county or the state will supervise a parolee; (2) cap county jail sentences at a maximum of three years; and (3) permit certain repeated technical violations to be punished with a prison sentence. Other top concerns related to jail overcrowding, the lack of a statewide offender database for probationers, the disuse of split sentencing, and a lack of funding for evidence-based programming, particularly for mentally ill offenders.

Imprisoning America: The Social Effects of Mass Incarceration

Imprisoning America: The Social Effects of Mass Incarceration

Author:
Publisher: Russell Sage Foundation
Date:

incarceration - CPI Affiliates

Robert J. Sampson's picture Robert J. Sampson Henry Ford II Professor of the Social Sciences
Harvard University
Steven Raphael's picture Steven Raphael Professor of Public Policy; James D. Marver Chair in Public Policy
University of California, Berkeley
Devah Pager's picture Devah Pager Professor of Sociology, Professor of Public Policy, Harvard Kennedy School
Harvard University
Matthew Clair Assistant Professor of Sociology
Stanford University

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Incarceration - Other Research

Title Author Media
Community and the Crime Decline: The Causal Effect of Local Nonprofits on Violent Crime Patrick Sharkey, Gerard Torrats-Espinosa, Delaram Takyar

Community and the Crime Decline: The Causal Effect of Local Nonprofits on Violent Crime

Author: Patrick Sharkey, Gerard Torrats-Espinosa, Delaram Takyar
Publisher: American Sociological Review
Date: 10/2017

Largely overlooked in the theoretical and empirical literature on the crime decline is a long tradition of research in criminology and urban sociology that considers how violence is regulated through informal sources of social control arising from residents and organizations internal to communities. In this article, we incorporate the “systemic” model of community life into debates on the U.S. crime drop, and we focus on the role that local nonprofit organizations played in the national decline of violence from the 1990s to the 2010s. Using longitudinal data and a strategy to account for the endogeneity of nonprofit formation, we estimate the causal effect on violent crime of nonprofits focused on reducing violence and building stronger communities. Drawing on a panel of 264 cities spanning more than 20 years, we estimate that every 10 additional organizations focusing on crime and community life in a city with 100,000 residents leads to a 9 percent reduction in the murder rate, a 6 percent reduction in the violent crime rate, and a 4 percent reduction in the property crime rate.

The Non-Market Benefits of Education and Ability James J. Heckman, John Eric Humphries, Gregory Veramendi

The Non-Market Benefits of Education and Ability

Author: James J. Heckman, John Eric Humphries, Gregory Veramendi
Publisher: NBER
Date: 10/2017

This paper analyzes the non-market benefits of education and ability. Using a dynamic model of educational choice we estimate returns to education that account for selection bias and sorting on gains. We investigate a range of non-market outcomes including incarceration, mental health, voter participation, trust, and participation in welfare. We find distinct patterns of returns that depend on the levels of schooling and ability. Unlike the monetary benefits of education, the benefits to education for many non-market outcomes are greater for low-ability persons. College graduation decreases welfare use, lowers depression, and raises self-esteem more for less-able individuals.

Prison Downsizing and Public Safety Magnus Lofstrom, Steven Raphael

Prison Downsizing and Public Safety

Author: Magnus Lofstrom, Steven Raphael
Publisher: Criminology & Public Policy
Date: 05/2016

Since the mid-1970s, the United States has experienced explosive growth in the incarceration rate and now incarcerates adults at a higher rate than any other country in the world (Raphael and Stoll, 2013). State and local budgets primarily carry the economic burden as most inmates are held in state prisons and local jails. The social costs of incarceration are largely borne by poor and minority households whose members disproportionately experience incarceration directly or indirectly through the incarceration of a family member. Not surprisingly, many states, as well as the federal government, are actively seeking alternative strategies to manage public safety. Recent reforms have put California at the forefront of broad efforts across the country to address the reliance on costly incarceration. California's recent history presents unique opportunities to study large, exogenous changes in incarceration rates.

Crime, the Criminal Justice System, and Socioeconomic Inequality Magnus Lofstrom, Steven Raphael

Crime, the Criminal Justice System, and Socioeconomic Inequality

Author: Magnus Lofstrom, Steven Raphael
Publisher: Journal of Economic Perspectives
Date: 03/2016

Crime rates in the United States have declined to historical lows since the early 1990s. Prison and jail incarceration rates as well as community correctional populations have increased greatly since the mid-1970s. Both of these developments have disproportionately impacted poor and minority communities. In this paper, we document these trends. We then present an assessment of whether the crime declines can be attributed to the massive expansion of the U.S. criminal justice system. We argue that the crime is certainly lower as results of this expansion and the crime rate in the early 1990s was likely a third lower than what they would have been absent changes in sentencing practices in the 1980s. However, there is little evidence of an impact of the further stiffening of sentences during the 1990s, a period when prison and other correctional populations expanded rapidly. Hence, the growth in criminal justice populations since 1990s have exacerbated socioeconomic inequality in the U.S. without generating much benefit in terms of lower crime rates.

The Great Recession and State Criminal Justice Policy: Do Economic Hard Times Matter? Peter K. Enns, Delphia Shanks-Booth

The Great Recession and State Criminal Justice Policy: Do Economic Hard Times Matter?

Author: Peter K. Enns, Delphia Shanks-Booth
Publisher: Russell Sage Foundation
Date: 12/2015

It costs a lot to maintain the world's highest incarceration rate. Did the largest economic shock since the Great Depression influence criminal justice policy and resulting incarcerations?

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