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|from the INCARCERATION TRENDS project|
There are more than 3,000 jails in the United States, holding 731,000 people on any given day—more than the population of Detroit and nearly as many people as live in San Francisco. But there’s more to the story of jail incarceration than just the numbers. In collaboration with media publisher Narratively as part of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s Safety and Justice Challenge, Vera’s The Human Toll of Jail project aims to shed light on the everyday experiences of those caught up in local justice systems and those tasked with administering them, illustrating not only what’s going wrong, but also how we can do better.
The number of people diagnosed with serious mental illness in the U.S. criminal justice system has reached unprecedented levels. Increasingly, people recognize that the justice system is no substitute for a well-functioning community mental health system. Although a range of targeted interventions have emerged over the past two decades, existing approaches have done little to reduce the overall number of incarcerated people with serious mental illness. This report, modeled on promising approaches in the mental health field to people experiencing a first episode of psychosis, outlines a new integrated framework that encourages the mental health and criminal justice fields to collaborate on developing programs based on early intervention, an understanding of the social determinants that underlie ill health and criminal justice involvement, and recovery-oriented treatment.
Millions of medically vulnerable and socially marginalized people cycle through the criminal justice system each year due to serious structural problems entrenched in American society. The absence of a coherent and effective social safety net means that people lack access to physical and mental health care, social services, and housing options in their communities. This report, First Do No Harm: Advancing Public Health in Policing Practices, details the cultural divide among system actors that amplify and sustain these problems and offers recommendations on how law enforcement policymakers and practitioners—in collaboration with public health officials and harm reduction advocates—can enhance both public safety and community health.
The Vera Institute of Justice served as the independent evaluator of the nation’s first social impact bond – an innovative form of pay-for-success contracting that leverages private funding to finance public services – to fund the Adolescent Behavioral Learning Experience (ABLE) for youth at Rikers Island. Vera employed a quasi-experimental design to determine whether participation in the ABLE program led to reductions in recidivism for youth passing through the jail. Vera determined that the program did not lead to a reduction in recidivism for program participants.
Increasingly, U.S. jails and prisons are the first chance for people with mental health and substance use problems to receive treatment. That population of justice-system-involved people tends to stay longer and return more frequently to corrections facilities. Yet the lack of communication between justice and public health systems has traditionally impeded the delivery and continuity of care. On September 17, 2014, the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration convened a two-day conference aimed to identify what prevents communication between justice and health systems and to develop solutions for connecting community providers and correctional facilities using health information technology (HIT). These proceedings describe the sessions, outlining challenges to instituting HIT solutions for information sharing as well as examples of how HIT is facilitating connections between health and justice systems in several jurisdictions.
Local jails, which exist in nearly every town and city in America, are built to hold people deemed too dangerous to release pending trial or at high risk of flight. This, however, is no longer primarily what jails do or whom they hold, as people too poor to post bail languish there and racial disparities disproportionately impact communities of color. This report reviews existing research and data to take a deeper look at our nation’s misuse of local jails and to determine how we arrived at this point. It also highlights jurisdictions that have taken steps to mitigate negative consequences, all with the aim of informing local policymakers and their constituents who are interested in reducing recidivism, improving public safety, and promoting stronger, healthier communities.
A new initiative to reduce over-incarceration by changing the way America thinks about and uses jails.
In 2009, the latest in a series of reforms essentially dismantled New York State’s Rockefeller Drug Laws, eliminating mandatory minimum sentences for people convicted of a range of felony drug charges and increasing eligibility for diversion to treatment. To study the impact of these reforms, Vera partnered with the John Jay College of Criminal Justice and the School of Criminal Justice at Rutgers University to examine the implementation of drug law reform and its impact on recidivism, racial disparities, and cost in New York City. The National Institute of Justice-funded study found that drug law reform, as it functioned in the city soon after the laws were passed, led to a 35 percent rise in the rate of diversion of eligible defendants to treatment. Although the use of diversion varied significantly among the city’s five boroughs, it was associated with reduced recidivism rates, and cut racial disparities in half.
Mass incarceration is one of the major public health challenges facing the United States, as the millions of people cycling through the courts, jails, and prisons every year experience far higher rates of chronic health problems, substance use, and mental illness than the general population. Mass incarceration’s role as a driver of health disparities extends beyond prison walls as well, affecting the health of entire communities. This publication—the first in a series released as part of Vera’s Justice Reform for Healthy Communities initiative—focuses on individual and community-level health impacts of incarceration with a focus on the relationship between mass incarceration and health disparities in communities of color and on opportunities presented by the Affordable Care Act.
|Read an editorial on "The Steep Costs of America's High Incarceration Rate," by Vera President Nick Turner and former U.S. Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin.|
Dr. Ingrid Binswanger, associate professor in Division of General and Internal Medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, speaks with Vera’s director of research, Jim Parsons, about the disproportionately high risk of death among people reentering the community from jail or prison upon their release. Dr. Binswanger’s research signals the need for better collaboration and communication between health and justice systems to improve continuity in care.
This interview is part of Vera's Neil A. Weiner Research Speaker Series.
There are three times as many people with serious mental illness in U.S. jails and prisons than in state psychiatric hospitals—many of them incarcerated for low-level, nonviolent offenses that result from an untreated psychiatric condition. People with mental illness do not fare well in correctional facilities, where they are more likely to be victimized and housed in solitary confinement. Historically, justice systems have been ill-equipped to address the needs of this population due to a lack of adequate treatment services coupled with poor collaboration with community-based health organizations.
This briefing—with community and government leaders—examines how the Affordable Care Act and promising new initiatives may help abate this crisis. Watch the full briefing on YouTube.