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

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

Understanding Law Enforcement Practice in Your Community: An Exploration of 911 Open Data Sets

This sort of analysis is just the tip of the iceberg, and we’ll be blogging about how best to use the data here. We’re expecting people to reach out so that they can ask more questions. We would love to start a conversation about how Vera and Two-Sigma can support your 911 data exploration in your city, and how you can use the data aggregation and ...

Blog Post
  • Frankie Wunschel
    Frankie Wunschel
February 21, 2020
Blog Post

The Arrest-Jail Admission Gap

Jail admission rates surpass arrest rates in small and rural counties

But why does this jail-arrest gap exist? First, it is important to acknowledge that differences in counties’ data collection, data sources, and documentation could have contributed to the gap. Federal statistics have some data gaps—not all arrests are reported in FBI statistics, and some jail admissions are missing in states that have city level pr ...

Blog Post
  • Abdul Rad
    Abdul Rad
  • Wenshu (Monica) Yang
    Wenshu (Monica) Yang
January 10, 2020
Blog Post

The 911 Call Processing System

A Review of the Literature as it Relates to Policing

Police spend an inordinate amount of time responding to 911 calls for service. While most of these calls are unrelated to crimes in progress, police often respond with the tool that is most familiar and expedient to them: enforcement. This exhausts police resources and exposes countless people to avoidable criminal justice system contacts. There i ...

Publication
  • Rebecca Neusteter, Maris Mapolski, Mawia Khogali, Megan O'Toole
July 19, 2019
Publication