Stories and Data
County jails are not folksy institutions, the stuff of stereotypes. In communities throughout the country, the experience of being jailed or working in a jail is anything but benign, and many local jails—especially those in small counties, surprisingly—are becoming bigger and more costly to operate.
To help Americans get real about their local jail, Vera launched the Human Toll of Jail, a web-based platform for true stories about the uses and abuses of jail, supplemented with links to relevant research, good practice, and other resources. Vera built the first-ever website where people can track incarceration trends in their own county, or in any country nationwide, and also published The Price of Jails. Already, small and mid-sized communities are waking up to the fact that bloated jails and their costs, both human and financial, are not just a big-city problem.
Series: Gender and Justice in America
Breaking the silence about women in prison
We like to think incarcerated women are so different from the general population. But that’s simply not true. I often say: If you want to understand sexism in America, go to a women’s prison. Gender bias for incarcerated women is the same bias that forces free women to have to choose between career and becoming a homemaker, accept less pay for...
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...
Overlooked: Women and Jails in an Era of Reform
Since 1970, there has been a nearly five-fold increase in the number of people in U.S. jails—the approximately 3,000 county or municipality-run detention facilities that primarily hold people arrested but not yet convicted of a crime. Despite recent scrutiny from policymakers and the public, one aspect of this growth has received little attention: ...
New Orleans: Who's in Jail and Why?
Until recently, New Orleans was the longtime nationwide leader in urban jail incarceration rate, which today remains at nearly double the national average. Although the population of the city’s jail has been declining since 2009, there is still much room for improvement, including addressing the considerable and persistent racial disparities in arr...
Safety and Justice Challenge
Reducing the Overuse of Jails
The Safety and Justice Challenge is an initiative of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation to reduce mass incarceration by changing the way America thinks about and uses jails. As part of the initiative, a network of competitively selected local jurisdictions are developing and modeling effective ways to reduce the misuse of jail. Ver...
Data tool providing information on jail and prison populations in every U.S. county
The Incarceration Trends Project aims to inform the public dialogue, advance research, and help guide change by providing easily accessible information on jail and prison populations in every U.S. county. The centerpiece of the project is an interactive data tool, available at trends.vera.org, that can be used for reference and measurement by justi...
In Our Own Backyard
Confronting Growth and Disparities in American Jails
Although local jails are increasingly recognized as the “front door” to mass incarceration, justice system stakeholders and others historically have not had access to the necessary data to understand how their jail is being used and how it compares with others. To address this issue, Vera researchers developed a data tool that includes current and ...
The Price of Jails
Measuring the Taxpayer Cost of Local Incarceration
Jails are far more expensive than previously understood, as significant jail expenditures—such as employee benefits, health care and education programs for incarcerated people, and general administration—are often not reflected in jail budgets, but rather in other county agencies. This report surveys 35 jail jurisdictions in 18 states to tally the ...
Los Angeles County Jail Overcrowding Reduction Project
This report was produced for the Los Angeles Countywide Criminal Justice Coordination Committee, which published it on its website on October 26, 2011. The report provides a comprehensive analysis of the factors that contribute to chronic overcrowding in Los Angeles County jails and provides recommendations for improvements