Ending Mass IncarcerationReducing the Use of Jails

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.

Related Work

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...

Blog Post
  • Charmaine  Davis
    Charmaine Davis
August 15, 2016
Blog Post

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 ...

  • Ram Subramanian, Christian Henrichson, Jacob Kang-Brown
December 15, 2015

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 ...

  • Christian Henrichson, Joshua Rinaldi, Ruth Delaney
May 21, 2015