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

Keeping Women Out of Jail, One Mother at a Time

A special public defenders office set up to help women is keeping families together.

Kami could have walked out of the jail that day if only she could afford the $5,000 bond prescribed by the judge. But without the money, she was stuck behind bars, waiting for the court to decide whether she was guilty. Nationally, women are less likely than men to be able to bond out of jail. Women behind bars are also more likely to have a histo...

Blog Post
  • Nissa Rhee
    Nissa Rhee
September 21, 2018
Blog Post

Exclusive First Listen: 70 Million, a New Podcast about Justice Reform

Hear the trailer for this 10-part open-source series that looks at how residents are taking action locally.

So, on August 27, 70 Million will premiere after a team of brilliant and dedicated reporters and producers spent the last eight months traveling the country to collect stories about regular folks becoming catalysts for jail and justice reform in their hometowns. A quick shout out to the dream team, so far: Jen Chien, Luis Gil, Mitzi Miller, Kate Kr...

Blog Post
  • Juleyka  Lantigua Williams
    Juleyka Lantigua Williams
August 17, 2018
Blog Post