After 50 years of mass incarceration, the United States faces a reckoning. While crime is far below its peak in the early 1990s,1 the country continues to struggle with an unacceptable amount of gun violence.2 Meanwhile, the drug war harms too many Americans and has failed to prevent fatal overdoses from reaching an all-time high.3 A great imbalance in our national approach to public safety, one that relies too heavily on the criminal legal system, has produced excessive levels of punishment and a diversion of resources from investments that would strengthen the capacity of families and communities to address the circumstances that contribute to crime.
This report offers five recommendations for policymakers and community members to potentially improve safety without deepening our reliance on extreme sentencing:
- Implement community safety solutions – Community-based interventions such as violence interruption programs and changes to the built environment are a promising approach to decreasing violence without incarceration.
- Transform crisis response – Shifting responses to people in crisis away from police toward trained community-based responders has the potential to reduce police shootings, improve safety, and decrease incarceration.
- Reduce unnecessary justice involvement – Ending unnecessary police contact and court involvement by decriminalizing and diverting many offenses can improve safety.
- End the drug war – Shifting away from criminalizing people who use drugs toward public health solutions can improve public health and safety.
- Strengthen opportunities for youth – Interventions like summer employment opportunities and training youth in effective decision-making skills are a promising means of reducing criminal legal involvement.
A growing evidence-base for all of these interventions demonstrates that policymakers can think beyond police and incarceration to create safety in their communities and should invest in bringing innovative alternatives to scale.
Deep racial and ethnic disparities exist throughout the criminal legal system, from the point of arrest to post-incarceration experiences that include restrictions on voting and employment. Black, Latinx, and Indigenous residents experience cumulative disadvantage at every stage of the criminal legal system because they are more likely to be arrested, convicted, and receive more punitive criminal sanctions than white individuals.4 Black adults are incarcerated in state prisons at nearly five times the
rate of whites.5 In 2019, Black youth were 4.4 times as likely to be incarcerated in the juvenile justice system as were their white peers.6 And Black Americans die from gun violence at nearly 2.4 times the rate of whites.7 Latinx people are likewise overrepresented in prisons8 and juvenile facilities, and as victims of crime. While data on Indigenous incarceration rates is limited, it is clear that American Indian and Alaskan Native people are imprisoned and jailed at far higher rates than whites,9 and victimized at higher rates.10 Limited data obscures the incarceration rates of other marginalized racial and ethnic groups, but experiences of safety in the United States are far from equitable, with Asian Americans, for example, incarcerated at a lower rate but reporting higher incidents and fears of violence than whites.11
Research demonstrates that many social interventions have the potential to be more cost-effective and equitable than criminal legal responses. The highlighted interventions below in violence prevention, crisis response, early childhood education, harm reduction, and therapeutic support for youth are ways to reduce unnecessary contact with the criminal legal system while protecting public safety. This list is far from exhaustive, but illustrates the opportunity to expand on programs that improve safety while scaling back incarceration. By combining social interventions that address some of the root causes of crime and legislative reforms that reduce the harm of the criminal legal system, policymakers can create safer, fairer, and more equitable communities.
Implement Community Safety Solutions
A growing number of community-level approaches ranging from changing the built environment to violence interruption programs, demonstrate the potential to prevent crime. For example, communities are exploring innovative practices to reduce violence through “placemaking” or “greening.”12 Initiatives funding green spaces, improving street lighting, community-led efforts to clean up vacant lots, and reclaiming spaces including abandoned buildings can reduce violence.13 Research found residents who belonged to organizations with their neighbors felt responsible for what happened in the surrounding community and increased participation in civic organizations improved quality of life outcomes for marginalized residents.14
Community-based interventions can also decrease gun violence. The United States is a national outlier of gun-related deaths and has the highest rate of firearm homicides among high-income countries and territories with populations of 10 million or more.15 The impact of gun violence is disproportionately suffered by people in predominantly Black communities: Black men between 10-24 years old are over 21 times as likely to be killed with a firearm than white men of the same age.16 While violent crime in the United States remains well-below its peak in the 1990’s, it has risen partly in response to the destabilizing impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and communities are searching for solutions.17
Gun violence in the United States ranges from mass shootings to suicides, requiring different responses. This brief focuses on non-intimate partner gun homicides, which are concentrated in marginalized neighborhoods and primarily occur within social networks.18 The individuals most at risk of committing community gun violence are also most at risk of being victimized by it.19 As such, community-based violence prevention interventions can be effective by changing social norms, building positive peer relationships, and preventing cycles of violent retaliation.20
Cure Violence is a common violence interruption model, rooted in public health concepts used in cities across the globe, including Baltimore, New York, and Chicago.21 Cure Violence identifies and treats the people most at risk of violence, detects and interrupts conflicts, and works to change social norms. Violence interrupters and outreach workers serve as credible messengers because of their own histories of involvement with violence, and respectively disrupt conflict, discourage violence, and connect individuals to work, education, and social services. The success of Cure Violence programs has varied, reflecting challenges in implementation, but Cure Violence programs have been shown to decrease gun violence.22 Advance Peace, another violence interruption model, builds on Cure Violence in multiple ways, including by incentivizing behavior change via stipends for participants, and is also a promising approach.23
Similarly, hospital-based gun violence prevention programs (HVIPs) use hospitals as an opportunity to intervene with gun violence victims and interrupt cycles of retaliatory violence by providing trauma counseling, access to social services, and case management to facilitate behavior change.24 Evaluations of the over 30 HVIPs in the U.S., in communities like Oakland, San Francisco, and Baltimore,25 have found that they can reduce future violence, retaliations, hospitalizations, and incarceration.26
“Rather than asking, “What’s wrong with you?” we should ask, “What happened to you?”….[T]his moment of injury can become a moment of engagement. When a young person who has almost no reason to be hospitalized—most young people are hospitalized only when they have appendicitis or break their arm or something like that—is suddenly shot, he or she enters a system that has the potential to help heal much deeper wounds that preceded the injury.” — Dr. John Rich, co-founder of Healing Hurt People, a hospital-based gun violence interruption program27
Currently, these interventions are typically deployed on a smaller scale within specific neighborhoods, rather than within entire cities or entire areas of concentrated disadvantage, and as such their impact has been blunted.28 While the federal Bipartisan Safer Communities Act of 2022 included a landmark $250 million in funding for community-based violence prevention initiatives, that figure falls short of the funding necessary to bring violence interruption programs to scale.29 In 2020, state and local governments spent $129 billion to police communities.30 Bringing violence prevention and other community-based interventions to scale would require investments of a more comparable magnitude.31
Transform Crisis Response
Police, prosecutors, and courts are often called upon to address broader societal issues they are ill-equipped to solve. Police are the default first responders to individuals experiencing mental health crises, substance use disorders, and a lack of housing. The outcome is needless arrests, the criminalization of mental illness and substance use disorders, cycles of trauma and reincarceration, and police violence. The United States’ long history of disinvestment from Black and brown communities results in intersecting inequities in healthcare, housing, education, and income that deepen racial disparities.
Meanwhile, unnecessarily subjecting people to criminal legal involvement can harm public safety. Incarceration and prior arrests can increase the likelihood of future contact with law enforcement resulting in collateral consequences like lost income, housing insecurity, and criminal legal debt.32 Criminalization of marginalized communities can geographically concentrate disadvantage – a factor strongly associated with increased rates of crime.33 Disparities in policing and prosecution can harm community trust in legal system actors, decreasing the willingness of individuals to cooperate with police investigations of more serious cases – impacting case closure rates.34
Alternative responder programs, in which non-police trained crisis workers respond to many types of non-emergency calls instead of police, are one potential way to reduce criminalization. These programs aim to minimize law enforcement with community members and decrease the risk of police violence by authorizing trained outreach workers to serve residents. Eugene, Oregon’s CAHOOTS program, is staffed by two-person teams of trained crisis workers and medics who work to prevent mental health crises and interactions with law enforcement, as well as provide connections to social services and basic emergency medical care. CAHOOTS has been funded by the Eugene Police Department (EPD) as a component of their crisis response system since 1989 and expanded access to healthcare in 2016. Staff developed criteria to divert appropriate 911 calls to CAHOOTS while community members can also request crisis teams. Of the roughly 24,000 calls that CAHOOTS received in 2019, just over 300 required police contact, and CAHOOTS teams resolved almost 20 percent of all calls received.35
Additionally, crisis response interventions tailored to individuals who are frequently arrested and are users of public health systems can yield significant cross-system savings. Many communities lack treatment resources for individuals experiencing a mental health crisis, leaving emergency rooms and jails to provide care. Twenty-four hour health centers are affordable alternatives to meet the needs of persons in crisis. Diversion programs can authorize police officers to connect people in crisis to health interventions rather than arrest. Tucson, for example, developed a comprehensive mental health crisis response infrastructure over the last 20 years that serves thousands of people each year. The community based infrastructure includes a crisis hotline, mobile response teams, and police co-responder teams.36 The Crisis Response Center yearly serves over 14,000 adults and youth, provides urgent mental health care, and access to medication-assisted treatment. In 2020, officers referred over 6,000 people to the Crisis Response Center instead of arresting or transporting them to emergency rooms, leading to dramatic declines in the annual arrests for vagrancy, civil disturbance, and drinking in public, as well as significant savings.37
Reduce Unnecessary Justice Involvement
The criminal legal system is not equipped to address the root causes of crime and in many circumstances may even worsen them. As such, communities can strengthen safety and justice by reducing unnecessary criminal legal involvement by decriminalizing some offenses and diverting others.
Some non-public safety offenses strongly associated with poverty and racial disparities in enforcement, such as loitering, can be safely decriminalized.38 Research suggests that non-prosecution of such offenses not only does not increase crime,39 but also reduces rearrests amongst those who would have otherwise been prosecuted.40
For offenses which cannot be moved out of the criminal legal system altogether, early short-term diversion programs, which connect individuals to services or rehabilitative programming as early as prior to first court appearance, can offer an alternative to the harms associated with more prolonged court-involvement. Some types of lengthy diversion programs, which keep cases open and unresolved leading to repeated court appearances and cumulative legal fees, have limited benefits and significant potential harms.41 Shorter diversion programs, which resolve cases within weeks or a few months so that justice-involved individuals can move on with their lives, may be more appropriate in many circumstances.
For example, The Community Works West launched the nation’s first pre-charge restorative justice diversion model in 2011, in Alameda County, California.42 Restorative justice programs are survivor-centered processes that bring together the people affected by the crime to address the harm and hold the responsible person accountable.43 The Community Works West’s program provides an alternative to incarceration for youth and young adults up to 25 years-old who have been arrested for misdemeanors and felonies, with a focus on more serious offenses.44 The individual responsible for the harm, the victims, the youth’s family or supporters, and other impacted stakeholders work together on an accountability plan. The program works with the responsible young person to monitor their progress on the plan. Upon completion of the plan, the prosecutor agrees not to file the charges.45 A 2017 study of the Community Works West’s program found that in the first two years, the prosecutor’s office diverted over 100 legal system bound youth. Participating youth were 44% less likely to recidivate compared to similarly situated youth in the youth justice system.46 Similar programs have now been implemented in several other jurisdictions including Contra Costa, California and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.47
“I have seen first-hand as a former superior court judge and now district attorney how the criminal justice system is not doing enough to support our youth. Traditionally, the way our criminal justice system handled crimes committed by youth has not always worked. At the same time, restorative justice diversion leads to greater victim satisfaction, and creates a space for our youth to make amends with victims impacted by harm.” — Contra Costa County District Attorney Diana Becton
Alternatives to Drug Enforcement
The drug war has resulted in a skyrocketing number of Americans incarcerated for drug offenses – from 40,900 in 1980 to 430,900 in 2019 – for increasingly lengthy periods of time.48 The United States’ choice to prioritize punishment over evidence-based responses to drug use has also cost hundreds of thousands49 of Americans their lives, as overdose deaths have continued to climb to all-time highs.50 Given the racist origins of the Drug War, its costs have disproportionately impacted Black, Latinx, and Indigenous communities.51 For example, Drug War arrest and sentencing policies harmed Black communities by imposing longer mandatory sentences on crack cocaine offenses than powder cocaine, deepening racial disparities in sentencing.52 Fatal overdoses are rising fastest among Black and Indigenous people in the United States,53 and also rising sharply among Latinx individuals.54
Communities can improve public safety while shrinking the footprint of the criminal legal system by prioritizing public health, rather than criminal legal responses to substance use 55 Improving access to harm reduction services can both save lives and reduce crime.56 Multiple studies have found that methadone maintenance treatment reduces criminal behaviors and fatal overdoses.57 Studies demonstrate that access to medication assisted treatment in correctional settings can reduce overdoses, yet access to this treatment in communities and in correctional facilities remains limited.58 Research shows that improving access to harm reduction services, such as needle exchanges and supervised consumption sites (where people use drugs in a community setting to prevent overdoses), can reduce other negative outcomes of drug use including the transmission of infectious diseases.59 Expanding access to Medicaid is also a key step in ensuring that the individuals who most need substance use-related health care can access evidence-based treatment.60
Meanwhile, criminalization has detrimental health impacts – incarceration is associated with increased risk for overdose death.61 Significantly reducing the use of incarceration, including by decriminalizing possession for personal use, has the potential to increase public health and safety.62
Strengthening Opportunities for Youth
Community-based support for youth can also reduce criminal legal involvement. Research finds particular crime prevention success with programs for pregnant teens or with children in early childhood. A strong program in this category is the Nurse Family Partnership (NFP), a home visitation program that trains and supervises registered nurses as home visitors. The initiative attempts to identify young, first-time mothers early in their pregnancy. The sequence of approximately 20 home visits begins in the prenatal period and continues over the first two years of a child’s life and then decreases in frequency. Through the home visits, new mothers develop a close relationship with a nurse who becomes a trusted resource with the ability to offer advice and connections to community-based services. A 15-year review of the Prenatal/Early Infancy Project in Elmira, New York found that nurse home visits significantly reduced child abuse and neglect in participating families, as well as arrest rates for children and their mothers. The NFP has been successfully evaluated in several sites and has been replicated in over 200 counties and many foreign countries.63
Darian and his girlfriend Salinta enrolled in the national Nurse-Family Partnership program early in her pregnancy. Through the program, they received resources and information to develop life and parenting skills through regular home visits from Sarah, a registered nurse with the program. Sarah visited Darian and Salinta in the apartment they shared with family in Madison, Wisconsin. Visits with Sarah helped the young parents learn what to expect in late pregnancy and connect them with community resources, such as with finding their own place to live. When the couple determined they didn’t have enough money for a security deposit, Sarah helped them access financial assistance to move into their own apartment with their daughter, Armonie. The parents worked with Sarah on parenting tips to support Armonie’s childhood milestones from talking to potty training. Salinta and Darian are both working and envisioning a bright future as a family. They both want to continue their education and continue developing skills that will help them provide a good life for Armonie.
“[Sarah taught] us about stages before they happened so we knew what to expect,” said Darian, who partnered with Nurse-Family Partnership nurse Sarah to achieve his and his girlfriend’s parenting goals.
Preschool education for three and four year olds is also an effective prevention strategy. The most well known model – the High/Scope Perry Preschool Project64 – demonstrates that Head Start and other preschool programs produce both short term and long-term benefits. This includes reduced engagement with the criminal justice system through the age of 27, along with positive school outcomes and reduced need for social services. Cost-benefit analyses conducted by the RAND Corporation show that every $1 invested in such programs produces $7.16 in societal savings. When adjusted for inflation, the investment in the Perry program’s early childhood prevention initiative resulted in a taxpayer return of $88,433 per child.65
Likewise, engaging youth in school, improving education quality, and increasing summer employment can also reduce involvement in violent crime.66 A study of one program to increase summer employment found that during the first year, involvement in violent crime dropped by 45% and “social benefits are likely to justify program costs, and may outweigh them by as much as 11 to 1.”67 Likewise, youth at risk of system involvement thrived in Chicago’s intensive tutoring and mentoring program, known as Match. The program intensive support provides a safety net for students, and offers individualized tutoring to customize instruction that suit each student’s needs. Students, many of whom were marginalized young Black and Latinx men, were 60% less likely than members of the control group to be arrested for a violent crime.68
Furthermore, strengthening decision-making skills, particularly for the most vulnerable youth can achieve significant reductions in arrests and recidivism. Becoming a Man (BAM) is a school-based group counseling program developed by the nonprofit Youth Guidance that helps teenage boys in 7-12th grades to learn, internalize, and practice social cognitive skills. BAM was evaluated in two randomized controlled trials, showing reduced violent crime arrests of 45–50% and 12-19% increases in graduation rates.69 Likewise, Roca provides cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)-based interventions for youth identified as being at-risk of engaging in violence. A 2021 evaluation found an association between participant’s usage of such CBT skills and positive outcomes,70 and the program is a promising innovation to reduce violence.71 Roca’s program for young mothers similarly uses CBT-based programming to stabilize families.72
As the United States marks 50 years of mass incarceration, the need for a comprehensive reimagining of our public safety infrastructure to prevent another 50 is clear. Some states have already taken meaningful steps to reduce their reliance on prisons to create public safety. The U.S. prison population declined 25% since reaching its peak in 200973 and twenty-one states have partially closed or fully closed at least one correctional facility since 2000, resulting in a trend of prison repurposing in which old prisons are converted for community and commercial use.74 However, at the current pace of decarceration, averaging 2.3% annually since 2009, it would take 75 years—until 2098—to return to 1972’s prison population.75
At every stage of the criminal legal system, and before harm ever arises, there are promising ways that communities can protect public safety and take steps toward ending mass incarceration. State legislatures and the federal government should invest in these interventions and incentivize their adoption.76 Communities have already begun to build the interventions necessary to reduce America’s reliance on prisons. Together, social interventions that address the root causes of crime and legislative reforms that reduce the harm of the criminal legal system can move the U.S. toward a safer, fairer, and more equitable future.
Friedman, M., Grawert, A., & Cullen, J. (2017). Crime trends: 1990-2016. The Brennan Center.
Correa, D. & Wilson, N. (2022). Gun violence in rural America. Center for American Progress.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2023). Vital statistics rapid release – monthly provisional drug overdose death counts.
Muhammed, K., Western, B., Negussie, Y., & Backes, E. (2022). Reducing racial inequality in crime and justice. National Academy of Sciences.
Nellis, A. (2021). The color of justice: racial and ethnic disparity in state prisons. The Sentencing Project.
Sickmund, M., Sladky, T.J., Puzzanchera, C., & Kang, W. (2022). Easy access to the census of juveniles in residential placement. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2023). “Underlying cause of death, 2018-2021, Bridged race.” Wide-ranging Online Data for Epidemiologic Research.
The Sentencing Project (2023). Detailed state data tool; The Sentencing Project (2021). Latinx disparities in youth incarceration; National Institute of Justice (2022). Experiences of victimization among Latinos: Studies confirm significant victim mental health impact and mistrust of authorities; Everytown for Gun Safety (2023). The impact of gun violence on Latinx communities.
Zeng, Z. & Minton, T (2021). Jail Inmates in 2019. Bureau of Justice Statistics.
U.S. Department of the Interior (2023). Missing and Murdered Indigenous People Crisis.
Ruiz, N., Edwards, K., & Lopez, M. (2021). One third of Asian American fear threats and physical attacks. Pew Research Center.
Placemaking offers an alternative to “broken windows” policing. John Jay College Research Advisory Group on Preventing and Reducing Community Violence (2020). Reducing violence without police: A review of research evidence. Research and Evaluation Center, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York. “Broken windows” theory posits that visible signs of disorder like loitering or graffiti contribute to increases in more serious crimes, and therefore law enforcement should prioritize enforcement of quality of life offenses. Not only has this theory itself been challenged, in practice, such policies can dramatically increase complaints of police misconduct, contribute to the disparate policing and incarceration of communities of color, and criminalize poverty. O’Brien, D., Farrell, C., & Welsh, B. (2019). Looking through broken windows: The impact of neighborhood disorder on aggression and fear of crime is an artifact of research design. Annual Review of Criminology, 2, 53-71. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-criminol-011518-024638; Human Rights Watch (2017). Criminalization of poverty as a driver of poverty in the United States: Submission to the UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights.
Farrington, D. & Welsh, C. (2006). Improved street lighting and crime prevention. Justice Quarterly 19:2, 313-342, https://doi.org/10.1080/07418820200095261.
Taylor, R., Gottfredson, S. & Brower, S. (1984). Block crime and fear: Defensible space, local social ties, and territorial functioning. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency 21: 303-331, https://doi.org/10.1177/0022427884021004003. Simcha-Fagan, O. &
Leach-Kemon, K. & Sirull, R. (2022). On gun violence, the United States is an outlier. Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.
Kegler, S., Simon, T., Zwald, M., et al. (2022). Vital signs: changes in firearm homicide and suicide rates — United States, 2019–2020. Morbidity Mortality Weekly, 71, 656–663.
Grawert, A. & Kim, N. (2022). Myths and realities: Understanding recent trends in violent crime. The Brennan Center.
Papachristos, A. & Wildeman, C. (2013). Network exposure and homicide victimization in an African American community. American Journal of Public Health. https://doi.org/10.2105%2FAJPH.2013.301441
Papachristos & Wildeman (2013), see note 18.
Muhammed et al. (2022), see note 4; John Jay College Research Advisory Group on Preventing and Reducing Community Violence (2020), see note 12.
Butts, J., Roman, C., Bostwick, L., & Porter, J. (2015). Cure Violence: A Public Health Model to Reduce Gun Violence. Annual Review of Public Health 36, 39–53. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-publhealth-031914-122509.
Butts et al. (2015), see note 21.
An evaluation of Advance Peace in Stockton, California showed a 21 percent reduction in gun homicides and assault compared to the national average. Corburn, J. & Fukutome, A. (2021). 2018-2020 evaluation. UC Berkeley, Center for Global Healthy Cities.
Cooper, C., Eslinger, D., & Stolley, P. (2006). Hospital-based violence intervention Programs Work. The Journal of Trauma Injury, Infection, and Critical Care, 61(3), 534-540. https://doi.org/10.1097/01.ta.0000236576.81860.8c.
Chong, V., Smith, R., Garcia, A., Lee, W., Ashley, L., Marks, A., Liu,T., & Victorino, G. (2015). Hospital-Centered Violence Intervention Programs: A Cost-Effectiveness Analysis. The American Journal of Surgery, 209(4), 597-603. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.amjsurg.2014.11.003; Cooper, C., Eslinger, D., & Stolley, P. (2006). Hospital-Based Violence Intervention Programs Work. The Journal of Trauma Injury, Infection, and Critical Care, 61(3), 534-540. https://doi.org/10.1097/01.ta.0000236576.81860.8c.
Drexler, M. (2020). Healing the hurt. Harvard Public Health Magazine.
In 2020-2021 in the District of Columbia, for example, violence intervention programs decreased violent crime in the priority neighborhoods to which they were deployed, but violent crime increased citywide. Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement (2023). Measuring Impact. District of Columbia.
Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, Pub. L. No.117-159, 136 Stat. 1313 (2022), https://www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/senate-bill/2938/text.
Urban Institute (2023). Criminal Justice Expenditures: Police, Corrections, and Courts.
For example, President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda included $5 billion in funding for community violence interventions, which failed to gain adequate congressional support. The White House (2021). Fact Sheet: Highlights From The Biden Administration’s Historic Efforts To Reduce Gun Violence.
Lau, T. (2020). The misdemeanor system reinforces economic inequality.
Muhammed et al. (2022), see note 4, p. 100.
Brunson, R. & Wade, B. (2019). “Oh hell no, we don’t talk to police”: Insights on the lack of cooperation in police investigations of urban gun violence. Criminology & Public Policy, 18(2), 623-648; Li, W. & Lartey, J. (2022). As Murders Spiked, Police Solved About Half in 2020. The Marshall Project.
Beck, J., Pope, L., and Reuland, M. (2020). Case Study: CAHOOTS. Vera Institute of Justice.
Richmond, L. (2022). Tucson Shares Blueprint for Crisis System Success. Psychiatric News.
Richmond (2022), see note 36.
Some reform prosecutors have implemented non-prosecution policies for such offenses. For example, former Suffolk County DA Rachel Rollins campaigned on the promise that her office would not prosecute disorderly conduct, shoplifting, some drug possession charges, and certain other low-level, nonviolent offenses. Hodge, J. & Flingai, S. (2021). What happened when Boston stopped prosecuting nonviolent crimes. The Vera Institute. Similarly, Baltimore States Attorney Marilyn Mosby declined to prosecute a wide array of drug offenses and sex work-related offenses. Jackman, T.(2021). Baltimore prosecutor Marilyn Mosby ends drug, sex prosecutions as violent crime plummets. Washington Post.
Foglesong, T., Levi, R., Rosenfeld, R.,Schoenfeld, H. Wood, J., Stemen, D., & Regifo, A. (2022). Violent crime and public prosecution. Global Justice Lab, Munk School.
A study of over 60,000 nonviolent misdemeanor cases in Boston, Massachusetts between 2004 and 2018 found that non-prosecution of a non-violent misdemeanor resulted in a 53% reduction in the likelihood of a new criminal complaint, and a 60% reduction in the number of new criminal complaints, over the next two years, compared to individuals subject to standard case processing. Agan, A., Doleac, J., & Harvey, A. (2021). Misdemeanor prosecution. National Bureau of Economic Research.
For example, drug courts have faced significant criticism for their frequent failure to comply with treatment and harm reduction best practices, burdensome requirements, and limited impact on recidivism. See, e.g., Schleifer, R., Ramírez, T., Ward, E., Williams, C.W. (2018). Drug Courts in the Americas. Social Science Research Council,
Community Works West (2023). Youth Power.
Sherman, L.W., Strang, H., Barnes, G., Bennett, S., Angel, C.M.,
Baliga, S., Henry, S., & Valentine, G. (2017). Restorative community conferencing: A study of Community Works West’s restorative justice youth diversion program in Alameda County. Impact Justice.
Community Works West (2023), see note 42.
Baliga, Henry, & Valentine (2017), see note 44.
Impact Justice (2023). Partnering with communities to address harm through dialogue.
The Sentencing Project (2022). Trends in US Corrections.
Center for Disease Control and Prevention (2023). Drug overdose deaths.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2023). Vital statistics rapid release – monthly provisional drug overdose death counts.
See, e.g., Hart, C. L.(2014). How the myth of the ‘negro cocaine fiend’ helped shape American drug policy. The Nation; Williams, E. H. (1914). Negro cocaine “fiends” are a new southern menace: Murder and insanity increasing among lower class blacks because they have taken to “sniffing” since deprived of whisky by prohibition. New York Times.
Ghandnoosh, N. (2022). Opioids: Treating an illness, ending a war. The Sentencing Project.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2022). Vital signs: Drug overdose deaths, by selected sociodemographic and social determinants of health characteristics — 25 states and the District of Columbia, 2019–2020.
Townsend, T., Kline, D., Rivera-Aguirre, A., Bunting, A.M., Mauro, P.M., Marshall B.D.L., Martins, S.S., & Cerdá, M. (2022). Racial/Ethnic and Geographic Trends in Combined Stimulant/Opioid Overdoses, 2007-2019. American Journal of Epidemiology 191(4):599-612. https://doi.org/10.1093/aje/kwab290.
Ghandnoosh (2022), see note 52.
Ghandnoosh (2022), see note 52
Marsch, L.A. (1998). The efficacy of methadone maintenance interventions in reducing illicit opiate use, HIV risk behavior and criminality: a meta-analysis. Addiction 93(4):515-32. https://doi.org/10.1046/j.1360-0443.1998.9345157.x.
Lim, S., Cherian, T., Katyal, M., Goldfeld, K., McDonald, R., et al (2022). Association between jail-based methadone or buprenorphine treatment for opioid use disorder and overdose mortality after release from New York City jails 2011–17. Addiction 118(3): 459-467. https://doi.org/10.1111/add.16071; Brinkley-Rubinstein, L., McKenzie, M., Macmadu, A., Larney, S., Zaller, N., Dauria, E., & Rich, 10 J. (2018). A randomized, open-label trialof methadone continuation versus forced withdrawal in a combined U.S. prison and jail: findings at 12 months post-release. Drug and Alcohol Dependence. 184:57-63. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2017.11.023.
Ghandnoosh (2022), see note 52.
Frank, R. & Fry, C. (2019). In medicaid expansion states, more people had access to opioid overdose reversal drug. The Commonwealth Fund.
Portugal’s national drug criminalization and harm reduction strategy, for example, has significantly decreased fatal overdoses. Felix, S., Portugal, P., & Tavares, A. (2017). Going after the addiction, not the addicted: The impact of drug decriminalization in Portugal. Institute of Labor Economics. Greenwald, G. (2009). Drug decriminalization in Portugal: Lessons for creating fair and successful drug policies.
Greenwood, P.. & Turner, S. (2011). Juvenile crime and juvenile justice. Crime and public policy. Oxford University Press.
Heckman, J. & Karapakula, G.(2019). The Perry Preschoolers at Late Midlife: A Study in Design-Specific Inference. National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper No. 25888. https://doi.org/10.3386/w25888.
Heckman, J., Pinto, R. & Savelyev, P. (2013). Understanding the mechanisms through which an influential early childhood program boosted adult outcomes. American Economic Review 2013, 103(6), 2052–2086. https://doi.org/10.1257/aer.103.6.2052.
Heller (2017), see note 66.
Ander, R., Guryan, J., & Ludwig, J. (2016). Improving academic outcomes for disadvantaged students: Scaling up individualized tutorials. The Hamilton Project.
Heller, S., Shah, A., Guryan, J., Ludwig, Mullainathan, S., & Pollack, H. (2017). Thinking, fast and slow? Some field experiments to reduce crime and dropout in Chicago. Quarterly Journal of Economics 132(1): 1–54. https://doi.org/10.1093%2Fqje%2Fqjw033.
Abt Associates (2021). Phase II Evaluation of Roca’s CBT Curriculum.
Roca (2022). Roca’s impact: Summary of evaluations.
Roca (2023). Young mothers.
Ghandnoosh, N. (2023). Ending 50 years of mass incarceration: Urgent reform needed to protect future generations. The Sentencing Project.
Porter, N. (2022). Repurposing correctional facilities to strengthen communities. The Sentencing Project.
Ghandnoosh, N. (2023). Ending 50 years of mass incarceration: Urgent reform needed to protect future generations. The Sentencing Project
See, for example, the proposed federal Reverse Mass Incarceration, which would incentivize states to reduce incarceration. Eisen, L.B. and Chettiar, Inimai (2015). The Reverse Mass Incarceration Act. The Brennan Center.
Schwartz, J.E. (1986). Neighborhood and delinquency: An assessment of contextual effects. Criminology 24.: 667-703. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1745-9125.1986.tb01507.x
The Brennan Center.
Security and Democracy Program.
Newbury-Birch, D., Woods, D.J., & Gill, C. E (2007). Restorative Justice: The Evidence. The Smith Institute.