Ending Mass Incarceration

Scoping the Problem

It’s impossible to appreciate a problem, let alone solve it, without understanding its scope—the shape and scale of what’s happening. And a complex problem like mass incarceration, typically defined by the 2.3 million people incarcerated at any one time in America, requires substantial unpacking. 

Our work wrestling with data falls into two broad categories: defining and monitoring trends in ways that inform both experts and the public, and using cutting-edge cost-benefit analysis. In the first category, for example, we created a truly unique vehicle to track incarceration trends at the county level—telescoping an issue that can feel huge and remote by generating numbers that matter locally. Similarly,  cost-benefit analysis provides the foundation for smarter criminal justice policies. That work includes calculating the true price of prisons, something that the traditional budgeting process has failed to do.

Related Work

Series: Two Societies

Contemporary Models of Equal Access to Housing

The Family Reentry Pilot Program

Given the significant barriers to reentry for formerly incarcerated people—which leads to high personal and economic instability and a risk of recidivism—Vera and its partners in the NYCHA pilot program understood how vital it is for a person to connect with family or a support system in order to successfully reenter their community. The Family Ree...

Blog Post
  • Preety Aujla
    Preety Aujla
May 07, 2018
Blog Post

An Unjust Burden

The Disparate Treatment of Black Americans in the Criminal Justice System

The evidence for racial disparities in the criminal justice system is well documented. The disproportionate racial impact of certain laws and policies, as well as biased decision making by justice system actors, leads to higher rates of arrest and incarceration in low-income communities of color. However, there is no evidence that these widely disp...

Publication
  • Elizabeth Kai Hinton, LeShae Henderson, Cindy Reed
May 03, 2018
Publication

Divided Justice

Trends in Black and White Jail Incarceration 1990-2013

Recent data analyses on jail incarceration—taken from Vera’s Incarceration Trends tool—reveal that although significant racial disparities still exist between black and white jail incarceration rates, incarceration rates for black people are declining, while rates for white people are rising. This report dives into the data on black and white incar...

Publication
  • Ram Subramanian, Kristi Riley, Chris Mai
February 25, 2018
Publication

Report to Tulsa County Stakeholders on Jail Reduction Strategies

Like many counties across the country, Tulsa County, Oklahoma has experienced a dramatic increase in its jail population over the past five decades, with the per capita jail incarceration rate growing nearly 200 percent between 1970 and 2016. In response to concerns about the continued growth of the jail population, its costs to taxpayers, and impa...

Publication
  • Nancy Fishman, Rebecca Silber, Kelsey Reid, Stephen Roberts, Navena Chaitoo
December 14, 2017
Publication

Supplement to Measuring Public Safety

Expanded to include final 2016 data for 294 cities with populations of 100,000 or greater

In Measuring Public Safety: Responsibly Interpreting Statistics on Violent Crime, the Vera Institute of Justice (Vera) used historical crime trend data to illustrate some common pitfalls when interpreting statistical data on crime. This supplement expands Vera’s previous analyses by incorporating official Uniform Crime Reporting statistics for 2016...

Publication
  • Bruce Frederick
September 26, 2017
Publication