Ending Mass Incarceration

Reducing the Use of Jails

Conversations about mass incarceration tend to focus on prison, but local jails admit 20 times more people annually. The long-term trend is shocking: In 1982, for every 100 arrests, 51 people were booked into jail. By 2012, even after crime rates plummeted, that ratio had swelled to 95 out of 100, reflecting a knee-jerk use of jail out of step with threats to public safety. Today, jails log a staggering 12 million admissions a year—mostly poor people arrested for minor offenses who can’t post bail, and for whom even a few days behind bars exact a high toll. 

It doesn’t have to be this way. Through the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s Safety and Justice Challenge, our own office in New Orleans, and direct partnerships with jurisdictions nationwide, we’re helping officials use jails as they were intended: to protect communities from dangerous people. There’s no simple fix, so the work includes using alternatives to arrest and prosecution for minor offenses, recalibrating the use of bail, and addressing fines and fees that also trap people in jail.

Related Work

Jail in New York City

Evidence-Based Opportunities for Reform

Jail in New York City: Evidence-Based Opportunities for Reform examines the key decision points within New York City’s criminal justice system that drive people into the jail. The report uses rich data on case processing, pretrial decision-making, bail decisions, and case disposition to understand how decision makers can impact the size of the jail...

Publication
  • Chris Mai, Joseph Spadafore, Ashmini Kerodal, Michael Rempel
March 24, 2017
Publication

Past Due

Examining the Costs and Consequences of Charging for Justice in New Orleans

In 2015, government agencies in New Orleans collected $4.5 million in the form of bail, fines and fees from people involved in the criminal justice system and, by extension, from their families. Another $4.7 million was transferred from the pockets of residents to for-profit bail bond agents. These costs have become the subject of considerable publ...

Publication
  • Mathilde Laisne, Jon Wool, Christian Henrichson
January 09, 2017
Publication

Greater Oklahoma City Chamber Criminal Justice Reform Task Force

Report and Recommendations

For years, Oklahoma County has been grappling with an overcrowded and run-down jail. With discussions abounding about whether to replace it with a larger facility, the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce convened a task force to examine the county’s local justice system and needs. Chaired by Clayton Bennett, chairman of the Oklahoma City Thun...

Publication
  • Nancy Fishman, Kaitlin Kall, Hanna Dershowitz, Jessi LaChance, Stephen Roberts, Rebecca Silber
December 14, 2016
Publication

Series: Gender and Justice in America

Mass incarceration and its impact are devastating to women

9to5, National Association of Working Women—of which I am the Georgia chapter director—understands the devastating impact mass incarceration has on women. The rate of growth for female imprisonment has outpaced men by more than 50 percent between 1980 and 2014. Now there are more than 1 million women behind bars or under some form of correctional...

Blog Post
  • Charmaine  Davis
    Charmaine Davis
August 15, 2016
Blog Post