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|from the INCARCERATION TRENDS project|
Police frequently encounter youth running away from home, violating curfew, skipping school, and chronically disobeying adults—misbehavior that can often stem from family conflict and that does not require justice involvement. When alternatives are not available, however, these behaviors can lead to arrests or detention. Families dealing with difficult youth behavior often unwittingly send their youth into the justice system by calling the police because they feel they have nowhere to turn for help. For police, encountering these kinds of situations can be frustrating because they feel limited to suboptimal choices: either ignoring the problem behavior or criminalizing it.
This brief explores the creative, collaborative, and community-focused work being done in Nevada, Connecticut, Nebraska, Michigan, Illinois, and Oregon to find productive responses to youth “acting out.” The juvenile assessment resource centers, crisis response centers, and crisis intervention teams in these jurisdictions address the needs of youth and connect families to resources and services without the need for juvenile justice involvement.
In 2014 and 2015, 46 states enacted at least 201 bills, executive orders, and ballot initiatives to reform at least one aspect of their sentencing and corrections systems. In conducting this review of state criminal justice reforms, Vera found that most of the policy changes focused on three areas: creating or expanding opportunities to divert people away from the criminal justice system; reducing prison populations by enacting sentencing reform, expanding opportunities for early release from prison, and reducing the number of people admitted to prison for violating the terms of their community supervision; and supporting reentry into the community from prison. By providing concise summaries of representative reforms in each of these areas, this report serves as a practical guide for other state and federal policymakers looking to affect similar changes in criminal justice policy.
Community-based sexual assault response teams, or SARTs, are considered a best practice for addressing the needs of victims and holding perpetrators accountable. The federal standards for implementing the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) mandate the coordinated response provided by SARTs to ensure that victims of sexual abuse in confinement settings—including jails, prisons, lockups, and community confinement and juvenile facilities—get the services and care they need. This guide, also available at PREAguide.org, is designed to assist administrators of local community confinement and juvenile detention facilities in collaborating with a SART. It is based on the experiences and lessons learned from the Sexual Assault Response Teams in Corrections Project (SARTCP), a multi-year pilot program funded by the U.S. Department of Justice, Office for Victims of Crime (OVC), that Vera implemented in Johnson County, Kansas.
Research shows that prison visitation is integral to the success of incarcerated people, reducing recidivism, facilitating their reentry into the community, and promoting positive parent-child relationships. However, people are often incarcerated long distances from their home communities in areas that are difficult to reach by public transport, creating significant barriers to in-person visitation. Departments of corrections are therefore exploring the use of technology as a means to address some of the visitation needs of those in custody in a cost-effective way. Video visits may not only help bridge the distance between incarcerated people and their loved ones, but may also expand visiting to include a broader array of people who are unable to make in-person visits. While there has been some controversy around the introduction of video visitation in local jails (with some jail jurisdictions eliminating in-person visits entirely), less is known about the use of the technology in state prison systems. This report examines the current landscape of video visitation in prisons nationwide and offers a detailed case study of the Washington State Department of Corrections, an early adopter.
Family involvement is essential for positive youth outcomes, especially for those youth involved in the juvenile justice system. Family visits, for example, can improve youth behavior during incarceration and are associated with better school performance. In recognition of these facts, Vera partnered with the Center for Juvenile Justice Reform at the Georgetown University McCourt School of Public Policy to publish Identifying, Engaging, and Empowering Families: A Charge for Juvenile Justice Agencies. This paper reviews the literature exploring the relationship between family contact and short- and long-term outcomes for youth in the juvenile justice system. It also identifies ways that agencies, from police through reentry staff, can better engage families and promote both personal contact and active involvement in case assessment, planning, and management.
There are more than 3,000 jails in the United States, holding 731,000 people on any given day—more than the population of Detroit and nearly as many people as live in San Francisco. But there’s more to the story of jail incarceration than just the numbers. In collaboration with media publisher Narratively as part of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s Safety and Justice Challenge, Vera’s The Human Toll of Jail project aims to shed light on the everyday experiences of those caught up in local justice systems and those tasked with administering them, illustrating not only what’s going wrong, but also how we can do better.
Law enforcement officers must be able to fairly and effectively engage with all communities in their jurisdiction. As the country continues to diversify, officers must cultivate trust and collaboration with communities that have various languages, cultures, and customs, to ensure public safety for all. Since 2014, the nation has focused on how police respond to contentious encounters, how and when they use force, and the disparate impact of policing on people of color. This three-part series—written for police, by police—seeks to fill the knowledge and practice gap in effective policing, highlighting practical, field-informed approaches to building trust with multiracial, multiethnic communities.
The number of people diagnosed with serious mental illness in the U.S. criminal justice system has reached unprecedented levels. Increasingly, people recognize that the justice system is no substitute for a well-functioning community mental health system. Although a range of targeted interventions have emerged over the past two decades, existing approaches have done little to reduce the overall number of incarcerated people with serious mental illness. This report, modeled on promising approaches in the mental health field to people experiencing a first episode of psychosis, outlines a new integrated framework that encourages the mental health and criminal justice fields to collaborate on developing programs based on early intervention, an understanding of the social determinants that underlie ill health and criminal justice involvement, and recovery-oriented treatment.
In 2015, the United States Department of Education announced the Second Chance Pell Pilot Program, aimed at supporting postsecondary education programs for people in prison. This program restores eligibility for Pell grants to students in state and federal prisons for the first time since it was eliminated by the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994. To support the implementation of new partnerships and strengthen existing ones between colleges and corrections agencies, this fact sheet shares lessons learned from the development and implementation of Vera’s Unlocking Potential: Pathways from Prison to Postsecondary Education national demonstration project, launched in 2012. The lessons in this fact sheet are grouped into three broad areas: developing college-corrections partnerships, ensuring quality in postsecondary education programs, and supporting education post-release. Additional resources can be found on Vera’s Expanding Access to Postsecondary Education online resource center.
This is the final report of the Governor’s Task Force on Sentencing and Recidivism issued in September 2015. It contains consensus recommendations of the Task Force for the consideration of Governor Haslam.