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

Arrest Trends in Action

What the data tells us about police practices

Data is an important component of the critical examination of police practices. It can be used to understand systemic racism and injustice and to identify places and situations where intervention is urgently needed. In these reports, Vera presents data from Arrest Trends—a tool that collates and visualizes arrest, victimization, and demographic dat ...

Publication
  • Daniel Bodah, Mary Fleck, Aaron Stagoff-Belfort, Frankie Wunschel
May 25, 2021
Publication

Changing Police Practices Means Changing 911

Three questions every community should be asking

Each year, people across the country make approximately 240 million calls to 911. That’s an average of 7.6 calls for service every second. But only about 1 percent of 911 calls in major cities are to report violent crimes in progress. Instead, 911 has become the default option for many people seeking support for a broad array of problems—such as d ...

Blog Post
  • Jim Parsons
    Jim Parsons
  • Frankie Wunschel
    Frankie Wunschel
September 29, 2020
Blog Post

In the Shadows

A Review of the Research on Plea Bargaining

Most criminal cases that result in conviction—97 percent in large urban state courts in 2009, and 90 percent in federal court in 2014—are adjudicated through guilty pleas. Of these, researchers estimate that more than 90 percent are the result of plea bargaining—an informal and unregulated process by which prosecutors and defense counsel negotiate ...

Publication
  • Ram Subramanian, Léon Digard, Melvin Washington II, Stephanie Sorage
September 09, 2020
Publication