Ending Mass Incarceration

Bringing Dignity to Life Behind Bars

With few exceptions, American jails and prisons are dehumanizing environments. For incarcerated men and women—95% of whom will return home—the possibility of rehabilitation is undermined by the brutality and monotony of life behind bars. High recidivism rates suggest the model isn’t working. The environments are punishing for staff as well.

Downsizing prisons and jails is not enough. They must be healthy places to live and work, places that affirm fundamental human rights, and where the possibility for personal transformation is a reality. Getting there requires commitment, imagination, and close partnerships with corrections administrators and others eager for change. Our work includes ending the widespread use of solitary confinement, protecting people from sexual assault, exploring ways to better connect people who are incarcerated with their families, and expanding access to higher education in prison. It also draws on lessons from countries that take a much less punitive approach to confinement with far better results.

Related Work

Growing Momentum to Expand Access to Quality Postsecondary Education for People in Prison

Postsecondary education in prison cuts costs, which provides opportunities to reinvest in communities. “Safer communities” is another way of saying less crime and less taxpayer dollars spent on prisons. According to the findings of Vera’s 2015 “Price of Prisons” report, states spend upward of $45 billion a year incarcerating people, but continue to...

Blog Post
  • Fred Patrick
    Fred Patrick
June 18, 2019
Blog Post

How a Massachusetts County is Transforming Jail for Young Adults

Inspired by Germany and Norway, the P.A.C.T. unit is the first-of-its-kind in a county jail across the country.

The journey toward creating P.A.C.T. was certainly not easy. Change is always difficult, especially in a field like corrections. Since we opened the doors of this unit just over a year ago, we have had successes, we have faced challenges, and we have learned from both. But the early results we are seeing reveal promise. Our recent report on these r...

Blog Post
  • Peter J. Koutoujian
    Peter J. Koutoujian
May 24, 2019
Blog Post

Safe Alternatives to Segregation Initiative

Findings and Recommendations to Partner Agencies

After decades of misuse and overuse, the role of solitary confinement in United States jails and prisons is now being addressed. In recent years, this practice—also known as restrictive housing or segregation—has been the subject of increased scrutiny from researchers, advocates, policymakers, media, and the government agencies responsible for peop...

Publication
  • Sara Sullivan, Vedan Anthony-North, David Cloud, Léon Digard, Allison Hastings, Jacob Kang-Brown, Byron Kline, Jessi LaChance, Stephen Roberts, Elena Vanko, Jessa Wilcox
May 15, 2019
Publication

Cultivating Change

How the Middlesex Sheriff’s Office and the Restoring Promise Initiative Are Transforming Incarceration for Young Men

Traditional criminal justice responses have fallen short on meeting the needs of young adults involved in the justice system. Across the country, policymakers are starting to address the legacy of unbalanced policies and practices that have resulted in the uniquely American phenomenon of 2.2 million people being incarcerated—a legacy that dispropor...

Publication
  • Alex Frank, Matthew Lowen, Kevin Maccioli, Shawn MacMaster, Selma Djokovic
March 05, 2019
Publication

Investing in Futures

Economic and Fiscal Benefits of Postsecondary Education in Prison

Efforts to build robust postsecondary education programs in prison have accelerated in recent years, with support from a broad range of groups from correctional officers to college administrators. This report, which is the result of a collaborative effort with the Georgetown Center on Poverty and Inequality, describes how lifting the current ban on...

Publication
  • Patrick Oakford, Cara Brumfield, Casey Goldvale, Laura Tatum, Margaret diZerega, Fred Patrick
January 15, 2019
Publication