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.

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New Orleans's Road Map to Eliminate Money Injustice

A conversation with Paid in Full co-author Alison Shih

7. We can’t wait! Any closing words? This work is pretty amazing, because not only does it have the potential to completely change the community that I live in right now, but as the rest of the nation is really gearing up and moving in this direction, it has the potential to influence other cities and states. Historically the issue of money injust...

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  • Karina Schroeder
    Karina Schroeder
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Dignity, Racial Justice, and Prosecution

Embracing human dignity; Correcting racial injustice; Reimagining prosecution

As the gatekeepers of the justice system, prosecutors wield a tremendous amount of power and are uniquely situated to stem the tide of mass incarceration and to ensure justice and fairness. While a wave of reform-minded district attorneys across the country are bringing increased awareness on both the need and potential for reform, true progress ca...

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  • Jamila Hodge
    Jamila Hodge
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