New Research and Papers
The Answer is No: Too Little Compassionate Release in US Federal Prisons
November 2012. A joint report by Human Rights Watch and Families Against Mandatory Minimums.
This 128-page report is the first comprehensive examination of how compassionate release in the federal system works. Congress authorized compassionate release because it realized that changed circumstances could make continued imprisonment senseless and inhumane, Human Rights Watch and FAMM said. But if the Bureau of Prisons refuses to bring prisoners’ cases to the courts, judges cannot rule on whether release is warranted. Since 1992, the Bureau of Prisons has averaged annually only two dozen motions to the courts for early release, out of a prison population that now exceeds 218,000. The Bureau of Prisons does not keep records of the number of prisoners who seek compassionate release.
Back to School: A Guide to Continuing Your Education After Prison
(2010) In 2008 the John Jay College of Criminal Justice Prisoner Reentry Institute, with funding from the U.S. Department of Education, developed a planning and information guide for prisoners nearing release. In 2010, the Department of Education updated the guide (link below). Free copies are available in limited quantities from the Department of Education's materials distribution center, EDPubs. (Visit EDPubs at www.EDPubs.gov, call 1-877-4EDPUBS, or write to ED Pubs; P.O. Box 22207; Alexandria, VA 22304 and request item number ED005088P.)
Barred Forever: Seniors, Housing, and Sex Offense Registration
By Patricia Warth, Co-Director of CCA/Justice Strategies. (July 2013) The article which is published in the current volume of the Kansas Journal of Law & Public Policy explores the unfair, harmful and counterproductive consequences of laws that prevent people convicted of sex offenses from accessing public and supportive housing. The article offers recommendations that would both ensure public safety while allowing people convicted of sex offenses to live stable lives and access the services that they need, particularly as senior citizens.
Barriers to Employment: Prison Time
by John Pawasarat, Employment and Training Institute, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, 2007.
Approximately 40% of African American men between 25 and 34 living in Milwaukee had been previously imprisoned as compared to 5% for the white and Hispanic population. The number of previously incarcerated men and women released to Milwaukee Co increased from 2,000 in 1983 to 8,000 in 2005. The report showed that possession of a driver’s license to be more important than education level in determining whether a person can attain and maintain employment. Specific recommendations are made for programs in prisons so prisoners can begin the process of regaining the license before release.
California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation: The Intermediate Sanctions Programs Lacked Performance Benchmarks and Were Plagued with Implementation Problems
(#2005-11). A couple of years ago, the legislature passed a series of measures designed to reduce California's off-the-charts parole revocation rates -- parolees are returned to prison on technical violations at twice the national average. The state auditor has released a report on the failure of the parole reform. November 2005.
California's Parole Experiment
By Jeremy Travis and Sarah Lawrence, Urban Institute, 2002. "California's policy is expensive, burdensome and with proof of being more effective." A look from 2002 at one important element driving extreme over-crowding in California's prisons.
The Collateral Effects of Incarceration on Fathers, Families, and Communities
By Council on Crime and Justice (March 2006).
Focusing on racial disparities in the Minnesota
criminal justice system, this report examines the
effects of imprisonment on family relationships from
the perspective of fathers, including a focus on their
strengths and struggles behind bars and upon reentry
into their communities. In addition, the report
examines community dynamics and resources within
neighborhoods experiencing high levels of reentry or
exit due to incarceration.
The Commercial Bail Industry: Profit or Public Safety?
Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice (CJCJ) publication reviews the political strategies utilized by the commercial bail industry to influence criminal justice policy. A really interesting report on the commercial bail industry, ALEC and how the bail industry fosters jail overcrowding. (May 2012)
The publication finds that:The commercial bail industry’s political agenda is profit-driven and contributes to California’s overcrowded jail population. On average, 50,000 of the 71,000 (71%) California inmates held in county jails have not yet been convicted of a crime and are simply awaiting their trial date. At $100 per day, California’s pretrial detainee population is costing taxpayers approximately $1.8 billion annually, which is more than half of the state’s current $3 billion budget shortfall. The bail industry has consistently worked in direct opposition against publicly funded pretrial service agencies to undermine the accountability and funding allocations of these programs.
The Continuing Challenge of CORI Reform: Implementing the Groundbreaking 2010 Massachusetts Law
The Boston Foundation The Crime and Justice Institute at CRJ. By Gabriella Priest, Julie Finn and Len Engel. Crime and Justice Institute at CRJ, May 2012
Two years ago Governor Patrick signed into law An Act Reforming the Administrative Procedures Relative to Criminal Offender Record Information. This legislation, which was the result of years of intense education and lobbying, was intended to reform the state’s criminal offender records information system (CORI) to improve employment and housing opportunities for ex-offenders—thereby easing their re-integration into society and reducing recidivism. Two years into implementation of the law, this report reviews its effectiveness and ascertains how close the reality is to meeting the high expectations we had when it passed.
Court Debt and Related Incarceration in Rhode Island
This report details the process of assessing and collecting court fees, including the related period of incarceration. It concludes that the most common reason for putting someone in jail in RI is for court debt, and that in many cases that process costs the state more than the individual owed. Rhode Island Family Life Center. May 2007.
Criminal Justice Debt: A Barrier to Reentry
By Alicia Bannon, Mitali Nagrecha, Rebekah Diller
10/04/10, The Brennan Center for Justice.
Many states are imposing new and often onerous 'user fees' on individuals with criminal convictions. Yet far from being easy money, these fees impose severe – and often hidden – costs on communities, taxpayers, and indigent people convicted of crimes. They create new paths to prison for those unable to pay their debts and make it harder to find employment and housing as well to meet child support obligations.
This report examines practices in the fifteen states with the highest prison populations, which together account for more than 60 percent of all state criminal filings. We focused primarily on the proliferation of "user fees," financial obligations imposed not for any traditional criminal justice purpose such as punishment, deterrence, or rehabilitation but rather to fund tight state budgets.
Across the board, we found that states are introducing new user fees, raising the dollar amounts of existing fees, and intensifying the collection of fees and other forms of criminal justice debt such as fines and restitution. But in the rush to collect, made all the more intense by the fiscal crises in many states, no one is considering the ways in which the resulting debt can undermine reentry prospects, pave the way back to prison or jail, and result in yet more costs to the public.
Does it Pay to Invest In Jail Re-Entry Programs for Jail Inmates
John Roman and Aaron Chalfin, Urban Institute Re-Entry Roundtable. June 2006. Cost benefit analysis for "re-entry" program in jails focusing on low cost programs in the Hampden County Jail (MA), high cost programs in Montgomery County MD, and contracted programs in Chicago. The paper includes statistical information on the increasing costs of jails from 1983 to 2003 (an increase of 600%) and 3 times the number of cells during the same period. They find that even a modest re-entry program in jails yields considerable benefits. Non-contracted re-entry services might be expected to return between $4.40 to $9.00 in social benefits for each $1 invested. And, if over time, re-entry programs persist, greater benefits will accrue.
Evaluating the Effectiveness of Correctional Education: A Meta-Analysis of Programs That Provide Education to Incarcerated Adults
By Lois M. Davis, Robert Bozick, Jennifer L. Steele, Jessica Saunders, Jeremy N. V. Miles
After conducting a comprehensive literature search, the authors undertook a meta-analysis to examine the association between correctional education and reductions in recidivism, improvements in employment after release from prison, and learning in math and in reading. Their findings support the premise that receiving correctional education while incarcerated reduces an individual's risk of recidivating. They also found that those receiving correctional education had improved odds of obtaining employment after release. The authors also examined the benefits of computer-assisted learning and compared the costs of prison education programs with the costs of reincarceration.
Examining Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Probation Revocation - Summary Findings and Implications from a Multisite Study
Jesse Jannetta, Justin Breaux, Helen Ho, Jeremy Porter . Urban Institute
This brief presents summary findings from an Urban Institute study examining the degree of racial and ethnic disparity in probation revocation outcomes and the drivers of that disparity in four diverse probation jurisdictions. Black probationers were revoked at higher rates than white and Hispanic probationers in all study sites. Differences in risk assessment scores and criminal history were major contributors to the black–white disparity. Results for disparity to the disadvantage of Hispanic probationers were mixed. The brief concludes with a discussion of policy implications for probation and the criminal justice system as a whole.
From Prison to Home: The Effect of Incarceration and Reentry on Children, Families, and Communities Incarceration. Reentry, and Social Capital: Social Networks in the Balance
By Dina R. Rose and Todd R. Clear, John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
A Guide for Attorneys representing College Applicants and Students During and After Criminal Proceedings
With a growing number of colleges and universities screening applicants for past criminal justice involvement, this Guide is a important tool for defense attorneys who seek to ensure that higher education remains an option for their current or past clients with dreams of one day graduating from college. Since higher education reduces recidivism, this Guide provides key strategies for enriching lives, increasing opportunities, and making our communities safer for all of us. "The Use of Criminal History Records in College Admissions: Reconsidered" and Passport to the Future: Accessing Higher Education in an Era of Mass Incarceration, a documentary film exploring barriers to college admissions for applicants with criminal records are also available at CCA's website.
Improving Outcomes for People with Mental Illnesses under Community Corrections Supervision: A Guide to Research-Informed Policy and Practice
The Justice Center: March 2009. The Guide reviews the body of recent research on community corrections supervision for people with mental illnesses and translates the findings to help officials develop effective interventions. Based on other recent prevalence studies, the Guide indicates that an unprecedented number of these individuals have serious mental illnesses. These individuals are more likely than others to have their community sentences revoked, return to jail or prison, and become more deeply involved in the criminal justice system. This first-of-its-kind guide helps program planners and policymakers apply research on promising practices to improve outcomes for people with mental illnesses under community corrections supervision.
"More than 1.5 million people released from jail each year have serious mental illnesses and many will require special supervision strategies and treatments to safely and successfully rejoin their communities," said Nevada Assemblywoman Sheila Leslie, the specialty courts coordinator of the state's Second Judicial District and Justice Center board member. The Guide indicates that community corrections and mental health officials are increasingly aware that they are serving the same individuals without positive effect. It explores the extent to which people with mental illnesses become involved in the community corrections system, and why traditional supervision and treatment strategies are not generally effective for this population.
In For a Penny: The Rise of America's New Debtors' Prisons
(October 2010) This ACLU report presents the results of a yearlong investigation into modern-day "debtors' prisons," and shows that poor defendants are being jailed at increasingly alarming rates for failing to pay legal debts they can never hope to afford. The report details how across the country, in the face of mounting budget deficits, states are more aggressively going after poor people who have already served their criminal sentences. These modern-day debtors' prisons impose devastating human costs, waste taxpayer money and resources, undermine our criminal justice system, are racially skewed, and create a two-tiered system of justice.
Incarcerating people simply because they cannot afford to pay their legal debts not only is unconstitutional but it has a devastating impact upon men and women, whose only crime is that they are poor.
Mapping Prisoner Reentry: An Action Research Guidebook
The Reentry Mapping Network (RMN) is a partnership among community-based
organizations and the Urban Institute designed to create community change
through the mapping and analysis of neighborhood- level data related to
prisoner reentry. RMN partners collect and analyze local data related to
incarceration, reentry, and community well-being; develop policy options
based on the findings; and document their accomplishments and lessons
learned. This guidebook provides information on how to understand and
address prisoner reentry at the community level through mapping and
analysis. It describes the concepts and methods underlying the RMN so that
other jurisdictions can learn from these experiences in the interests of
crafting more effective and successful reentry strategies in their
communities. The key steps to doing so are highlighted below. (Sept. 2005)
The Mark of a Criminal Record
By Devah Pager, American Journal of Sociology, March 2003. A criminal record represents a major barrier to employment with important implications for racial disparities. The article focuses on the consequences of incarceration for the employment outcomes of black and white job seekers.
Maryland's Parole Supervision Fee: A Barrier to Reentry
By Rebekah Diller, Judith Greene, & Michelle Jacobs.
Brennan Center for Justice (March 2009). Given the
increasing use of economic sanctions by state
governments, people entering the criminal justice
system are unlikely to leave it without incurring new
debt. For example, Maryland law authorizes charges for
everything from an individual's initial arrest, to the
costs of a constitutionally mandated public defender,
to the costs of the individual's supervision on
probation or parole. Most of these charges are
unrelated to the criminal system's putative goals of
punishment, deterrence, incapacitation, and
rehabilitation. Instead, they are designed to subsidize
state budgets. This growing category of debt created by
fees levied to generate revenue is distinct from fines
and restitution, the two more traditional categories of
criminal justice-related "legal financial obligations,"
or "LFOs." Fines are the traditional monetary penalty,
usually based on the severity of crime, imposed to
punish an individual. Restitution, a court-ordered
payment by the offender to compensate the victim for
financial loss resulting from the crime, is rooted in a
restorative justice approach that emphasizes repairing
the harm of criminal behavior. Revenue-generating
"fees," on the other hand, are assessed not for any
criminal justice purpose, but rather to fund state
budgets. They are imposed on a largely indigent
population, rather than on the general tax-paying
populace. And, they are imposed without regard to their
impact on the ability of persons convicted of a crime
to reenter society after completing court-mandated
punishment. The parole supervision fee in Maryland - a
monthly obligation of $40 that totals of hundreds of
dollars over the course of the parole term - is just such
People, Places, and Things: The Social Process of Reentry for Female Ex-Offenders
By Andrea M. Leverentz. August 2006. Source:
National Institute of Justice. This study examined the
social lives of female with felony convictions to
determine the features of their relationships after
their release from prison.
Priorities for the New Presidential Administration to Reduce Poverty through Transitional Jobs Programs
The National Transitional Jobs Network is requesting $1 billion dollars over five years in new dedicated sources of Transitional Jobs funding as well as alterations and clarifications of current law in various programs to facilitate use of current funding streams for Transitional Jobs programs.
Prisons Do Not Reduce Recidivism :The High Cost of Ignoring Science
By Francis T. Cullen, Cheryl Lero Jonson and Daniel S. Nagin. The Prison Journal 2011 91: 48S originally published online 19 July 2011.
A 2007 report by the Council of State Governments' Justice Center. Found that "people released from prisons and jails typically must make payments to a host of agencies, including probation departments, courts and child support enforcement offices." Three-fourths of those owing child support, restitution and supervision fees have difficulty paying these debts.
The Council of State Governments Justice Center is a
first-of-its-kind comprehensive guide, supported by the U.S. Justice
Department's Bureau of Justice Assistance that details how policymakers can
increase financial accountability among people leaving correctional
facilities, improve rates of child support collection and victim
restitution, and make individuals' transition from prisons and jails to the
community safe and successful.
People released from prisons and jails typically must make payments to a
host of agencies, including probation departments, courts, attorney
generals' offices, and child support enforcement offices. While coordinated
collections efforts among these agencies could increase rates of repayment
to victims, families, and criminal justice agencies, there is rarely a
single agency tracking all of an individual's court-ordered debts and
The report recommends very specific strategies to improve how people
released from prisons and jails meet their court-ordered financial
obligations. It also provides examples from states that have successfully
implemented some aspect of these strategies, including Arizona, California,
Colorado, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New
Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Rhode
Island, Washington, and Wisconsin.
Report of the Re-Entry Policy Council
This 600 page report issued in January 2005 presents recommendations and analysis developed by the Re-entry Policy Council
(RPC), an organization consisting of over 100 policymakers representing diverse
constituencies. The RPC is sponsored by the Council of State Governments, a nonpartisan
organization that tracks all branches of state government, plus 11 additional
Restoration of Rights Project
NACDL is pleased to offer, as a resource for its members and as a service to the public, a collection of individual downloadable documents that profile the law and practice in each U.S. jurisdiction relating to relief from the collateral consequences of conviction. The 54 jurisdictional profiles include provisions on loss and restoration of civil rights and firearms privileges, legal mechanisms for overcoming or mitigating collateral consequences, and provisions addressing non-discrimination in employment and licensing. In addition to the full profiles, there is a set of charts covering all 50 states (plus territories and the federal system) that provide a side-by-side comparison and make it possible to see national patterns in restoration laws and policies. The information covered by the charts is summarized on the page for each jurisdiction. These materials will be an enormous aid to lawyers in minimizing the collateral consequences suffered by clients and in restoring their rights and status.
Risk as a Proxy for Race
By Bernard E. Harcourt, University of Chicago - Law School, Criminology and Public Policy, Forthcoming. University of Chicago Law & Economics Olin Working Paper No. 535. Abstract:
Today, an increasing chorus argues that risk-assessment instruments are a politically feasible way to resolve our problem of mass incarceration and reduce prison populations. In this essay, Harcourt argues against this progressive argument for prediction: using risk-assessment tools to decrease prison populations would unquestionably aggravate the already intolerable racial imbalance in our prison populations and will not address the real source of mass incarceration, namely the admissions process. Risk has collapsed into prior criminal history, and prior criminal history has become a proxy for race. This means that using risk-assessment tools, even for progressive ends, is going to significantly aggravate the already unacceptable racial disparities in our criminal justice system. Instead of turning to prediction, we need to address prison admissions. Recent evidence suggests that our carceral excess was not so much fueled by the length of sentences, as it was by the front end: new admissions. The real solution to mass incarceration, then, is not to cut short prison terms though prediction, but to reduce admissions to prison.
Smoothing the Path from Prison to Home: A Summary and a Roundtable Discussion on the Lessons of Project Greenlight
By James A. Wilson, Yury Cheryachukin, Robert C. Davis,
Jean Dauphinee, Robert Hope, Kajal Gehi, and Timothy
Ross. This publication combines two parts: A roundtable
discussion (13 pages) and a summary report (15 pages).
We are also publishing a technical report (155
pages) that supplements this publication, introduced by
the roundtable discussion. This report presents
research findings about Project Greenlight, reentry
demonstration project that the Vera Institute of
Justice conducted at the Queensboro Correctional
Facility in Queens, New York, from February 2002 to
Drawing upon research literature and demonstrated best
practices, Greenlight sought to reduce recidivism among
soon-to-be-released men by working with corrections and
parole staff to address a spectrum of reentry issues
during the last 60 days in prison. Despite these
efforts, however, Vera researchers found that arrest
rates among Greenlight's 348 participants were higher
than those of two different comparison groups.While
disappointing, these findings present the field of
prison reentry with a valuable learning opportunity.
The technical and summary reports now available on our
web site are supplemented by an edited transcript of an
April 2005 roundtable discussion about the project that
was attended by prominent researchers, expert
practitioners, and former Greenlight and select Vera
staff. The edited transcript covers many issues that
could have factored into the disappointing outcomes and
present lessons for current and future programs that
are designed to reduce recidivism and improve outcomes
for men and women returning to the community from
State Recidivism Studies
The Sentencing Project. June 2010. The database provides references for 99 recidivism studies conducted between 1995-2009 in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. These studies have been produced by a variety of agencies, including departments of corrections, sentencing commissions, statistical analysis centers, and universities. The studies address issues including juvenile/adult status, race, gender, offense type, program intervention, and many others, and thus offer insights into the variety of factors that affect recidivism outcomes.
State of Recidivism: The Revolving Door of America’s Prisons
Pew Center on the States, April 2011. In the first ever state-by-state survey of recidivism rates, state corrections data show that nearly 43 percent of prisoners released in 2004, and 45 percent of those released in 1999 were reincarcerated within three years, either for committing a new crime or violating the terms of their supervised release. Recidivism rates vary widely among the states and there are a number of potential explanations for the differences. Many relate to whether corrections agencies are using evidence-based practices and to deliberate policy decisions, such as the types of people sentenced to prison, how prisoners are selected for release, how long they are under supervision, and decisions about how to respond when people who have been incarcerated break the rules of their release.
Of the 33 states that reported data for both 1999 and 2004 releases, recidivism rates fell in 17 states and climbed in 15 states, while one state reported no change. Six states (Alaska, California, Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri and Vermont) reported that more than half of released offenders returned to state custody within three years in 2004-2007, while five (Oklahoma, Oregon, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming) had recidivism rates under 30 percent.
A Study of Parole Board Decisions for Lifers
Massachusetts: Phantom Prisoner, 2003-2006. Published May 2007. To contact the Phantom Prisoner and/or subscribe to the Phantom Prisoner Newsletter ($5 for prisoners in stamps or cash and $10 for free world subscribers), write to Phantom Prisoner, Ltd., P.O. Box 114379, Centerdale, RI 02911
A Study of Parole Board Decisions for Lifers 2008
Lifers Group, Norfolk Prison, Massachusetts. Lifers' Group, Inc. of MCI, Norfolk has obtained data from the MA Parole Board on the hearings given Lifers, most of whom were convicted of 2nd degree murder. (A very few were convicted of other crimes which the M.G.L. provides for a maximum sentence of life. Those crimes include rape, poisoning, armed assault within a dwelling, armed robbery, kidnapping with intent to extort, and assault of a child with intent to commit rape.) The very detailed analysis, with discussion, separates decisions by those who are before the Parole board for the first time and those who are applying a subsequent time. Also listed are the reasons that the Parole board gives the applicants, both for approved parole and parole denied, as is their frequency. Finally, the length of setbacks (time needing to elapse before an individual denied parole is allowed to reapply for parole.) is charted.
The Use of Criminal History Records in College Admissions Reconsidered
(Center for Community Alternatives-2010) shows that a majority of colleges and universities now collect criminal history information as part of the college admissions procedures. Done in collaboration with the American Association of College Registrars and Admissions Officers. The survey found that a broad array of convictions, including convictions for relatively minor offenses, are viewed as negative factors in the context of admissions decision-making.
Among the studies key findings are:
* 66% of the responding colleges collect criminal justice information, although not all of them consider it in their admissions process.
* A sizable minority (38%) of the responding schools does not collect or use criminal justice information and those schools do not report that their campuses are less safe as a result.
* Most schools that collect and use criminal justice information require additional information and procedures before admitting an applicant with a past criminal record including consultation with academic deans and campus security personnel.
* Less than half of the schools that collect and use criminal justice information have written policies in place, and only 40 percent train staff on how to interpret such information.
When the Gates Open: Ready4Work - A National Response to the Prisoner Reentry Crisis
By Joshua Good and Pamela Sherrid. October 2005, 32 pages.
When the Gates Open describes the emergence of Ready4Work, a 17-site, national ex-prisoner
reentry initiative developed by P/PV. The report outlines the initiative's
basic goals and design, and examines how it is directly confronting the nation's
reentry crisis by drawing on local faith- and community-based organizations to
provide job training, mentoring, case management and job placement services.The
report documents a rare partnership among the business, government, community
and faith sectors, as they come together to confront alarmingly high incarceration
and recidivism rates. It describes key start-up and implementation challenges
and, using early outcomes data, touches on a number of promising practices for
future reentry efforts.