Currently implemented in more than a dozen cities around the country, jail Population Review Teams (PRTs) are one strategy to reduce jail populations. Funded by the Safety and Justice Challenge (SJC) and with guidance from ISLG, the Center for Court Innovation conducted a quantitative research study of the PRT model and its impacts in three sites through the spring of 2020: Lucas County, Ohio; Pima County, Arizona; and St. Louis County, Missouri.
Efforts to reform the justice system—including our own—often tout they're "evidence-based" or "data-driven." But at a moment when a pandemic-era spike in crime seems to have put the reform movement on its heels, New Thinking asks: why do arguments based on data rarely seem to win the day? Christina Greer and John Pfaff—two scholars working at the intersection of data and politics—explain.
Many schools have adopted a form of restorative justice, but there are few rigorous evaluations of its effects. Our study of an ambitious project in a handful of New York City schools returned a mixed result: widespread perceptions of an improved school climate, but little movement in our primary metric—the use of suspensions. Should future researchers prioritize outcomes more aligned with restorative justice's overall goals?
Where the political will exists, jail populations can be reduced swiftly and humanely. That is the primary lesson to emerge from our study of New York City’s Early Release Program. Quickly constructed as the pandemic first hit Rikers Island in March 2020, the program helped drive the city's jail population to its lowest level in 75 years. With the curtailment of those efforts, the population has since increased by 60 percent.
Our analysis of New York City misdemeanor cases shows the system rarely results in criminal convictions but inflicts "process is punishment" effects as people experience arrest, detention, and daylong waits for brief court appearances. We also found stark racial disparities in who is prosecuted. Following from our findings, we offer statewide legislative recommendations for shrinking misdemeanor prosecution.
Eyal Press contends there are entire areas of life we've delegated to "dirty workers"—functions we've declared necessary, but that we strive to keep hidden. In his new book, Press points to the transformation of jails and prisons into the country's largest mental health institutions. He calls the people struggling to offer treatment in those settings "dirty workers"—not because their work isn't noble, but because collectively we've put them in a situation where it's impossible to practice ethical care.
With the onset of COVID-19 in 2020, courts across the country shifted urgently to remote, rather than in-person, operations. It amounted to an unprecedented large-scale experiment. As courts prepare for a post-pandemic future, we looked in depth at both the harms of remote justice and at which practices might be worth continuing, with the overall goal of promoting fairness and equity.
On New Thinking, an audio snapshot from an emergency rally demanding immediate measures to release people from New York City’s Rikers Island jail facility. Fourteen people have died in the custody of the city’s jail system this year as the chief medical officer for NYC Jails warns of “a collapse in basic jail operations.”
New York City's promise to shutter its notorious Rikers Island jail complex hinges on reducing the number of people in city jails—the overwhelming majority held awaiting trial. This report from the Independent Commission that called for Rikers' closure in 2017 and the Center for Court Innovation lays out a series of concrete, data-driven strategies to produce sizable jail reductions while prioritizing public safety.
In her new book, historian Elizabeth Hinton highlights a "crucible period" of often violent rebellions in the name of the Black freedom struggle beginning in 1968. Initiated in almost every instance by police violence, the rebellions—dismissed as "riots"—have been largely written out of the history of the civil rights era. Hinton contends the period is critical for understanding the roots of mass incarceration and contains important lessons today for people organizing against police violence.