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

Common Ground

How all of Oregon Contributes to Criminal Justice Reform

After Oregon’s prison population grew 50 percent over the span of twelve years (2000 to 2012), Governor John Kitzhaber reconvened and expanded the state’s Commission on Public Safety to examine the drivers of Oregon’s prison population and recommend fiscally responsible, evidence-based policy options to minimize anticipated growth. This brief descr...

Publication
  • Ram Subramanian, Alison Shames
November 04, 2016
Publication

Remote Access

Using Video Technology to Treat Substance Users on Probation and Parole in South Dakota

The challenges of accessing services for alcohol and other drug use in South Dakota may have contributed to the state’s high percentage of people convicted of low-level nonviolent offenses, particularly for drug or alcohol related offenses. To minimize these challenges, especially for parolees and probationers residing in the state’s vast rural are...

Publication
  • Alison Shames, Ram Subramanian
October 21, 2016
Publication

Bridging the Divide

Improving Parole Outcomes for Native Americans in South Dakota

The tribal parole program in South Dakota is aimed at solving a problem common to many jurisdictions: providing effective supervision to Native Americans who leave prison and return to live on tribal lands. This brief describes the issues that tribal communities face and how they are working together with the state government to provide effective s...

Publication
  • Ram Subramanian, Alison Shames
October 10, 2016
Publication

Justice in Review

New Trends in State Sentencing and Corrections 2014-2015

In 2014 and 2015, 46 states enacted at least 201 bills, executive orders, and ballot initiatives to reform at least one aspect of their sentencing and corrections systems. In conducting this review of state criminal justice reforms, Vera found that most of the policy changes focused on three areas: creating or expanding opportunities to divert peop...

Publication
  • Rebecca Silber, Ram Subramanian, Maia Spotts
May 26, 2016
Publication

Tennessee’s new vision for public safety has lessons for criminal justice reform nationwide

As the 2016 legislative session gets underway in states across the nation, it’s a hopeful time for those who support criminal justice policy rooted in a holistic vision of public safety that embraces not only efficiency, but also justice, compassion, and a commitment to human dignity. In Tennessee, Governor Bill Haslam has announced his second-ter...

Blog Post
  • Rebecca  Silber
    Rebecca Silber
February 12, 2016
Blog Post