The U.S. has one of the highest incarceration rates in the world—693 per 100,000 residents. Yet, despite our reliance on incarceration to combat crime, an estimated 40 percent of people released from prison are rearrested within three years.
In contrast, European nations rely more heavily on non-custodial penalties for nonviolent crimes, including day fines, restitution, and community service orders. For Germany and the Netherlands, these policies have resulted in significantly lower incarceration rates: 76 per 100,000 residents and 69 per 100,000 residents.
To see how these nations deal with crime and incarceration, and perhaps learn lessons for reform at home, Vera has led two delegations abroad to tour European prison systems. Delegations include state and local policymakers, corrections officials, judges, attorneys, and other stakeholders.
Certain European countries have much lower incarceration rates than the U.S.—what can we learn from their approach to justice?
Can focusing on human dignity and rehabilitation, not retribution, produce greater public safety benefits and help to reduce recidivism?
Key Fact & Resource
Sentencing and Prison Practices in Germany and the Netherlands
Implications for the United States
The U.S. prison population has increased 700 percent in the last 40 years, and state corrections expenditures reached $53.5 billion in 2012. Despite this massive investment in incarceration, the national recidivism rate remains at a stubborn 40 percent—meaning that four in 10 incarcerated people will return to prison within three years of release. ...