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Project Title:

Causes and Consequences of High Rates of Incarceration
PIN: DBASSE-CLAJ-11-01        

Major Unit:

Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education

Sub Unit: DBASSE Committee on Law and Justice

RSO: Redburn, Stevens

Subject/Focus Area: Behavioral and Social Sciences

Project Scope
An ad hoc panel will conduct a study and prepare a report that will focus on the scientific evidence that exists on the use of incarceration in the United States and will propose a research agenda on the use of incarceration and alternatives to incarceration for the future.  The study will explore the causes of the dramatic increases in incarceration rates since the 1970s, the costs and benefits of the nation's current sentencing and incarceration policies, and whether there is evidence that alternative punishments might achieve similar public safety benefits at lower financial and social costs.

The panel would undertake the following tasks:

1.  Describe and assess the existing research on drivers of incarceration in the
United States over the past 30-40 years.  To what extent does existing
research suggest that incarceration rates were influenced by changes in
factors such as the following:

a.  crime rates;

b.      drug enforcement policy;

c.      rates of arrest or conviction;

d.      conditions for arrest;

e.      sentencing policies, including length of sentences;

f.      parole release and parole revocation policies;

g.      changes in public opinion;

h.      changes in organization/management of prisoners.
2.  Describe and assess the existing research on the consequences of current
U.S. incarceration policies.  The following research areas may be addressed:

a.      Do increases in the incarceration rate reduce the crime rate? 

b.      If so, to what extent is this due to deterrence and incapacitation
and to what extent is it due to rehabilitation?

c.      What are the effects of incarceration on the imprisoned
individuals, during imprisonment and afterward?

d.      What are the effects of incarceration on families, including
intimate partners and children? 

e.      What are the other intergenerational effects?

f.      What are the effects on communities, including labor markets,
civic participation, legal cynicism, dating and marriage patterns,
and other effects?

g.      What are the effects on various racial, ethnic, and gender groups?

h.      What are the financial costs of incarceration?

3.  Describe and assess the existing research on the policy alternatives to
incarceration, in terms of their effects on public safety and their costs. 
The question is not how to reduce crime rates, but what can we learn from
research studies about the effectiveness of programs that would reduce the
rate of incarceration and what do we know about their costs and benefits.

The project is sponsored by the National Institute of Justice, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
The approximate start date for the project is January 1, 2012.
A report will be issued at the end of the project in approximately 24 months.
Update (January 2013): An individually-authored summary will also be issued of the workshop on Health & Incarceration that was held in Washington, DC on December 5, 2012

Project Duration: 24 months    

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Contact the Public Access Records Office to make an inquiry, request a list of the public access file materials, or obtain a copy of the materials found in the file.

Committee Membership
Committee Membership

 Meeting 1 - 03/19/2012
 Meeting 2 - 07/09/2012
 Meeting 3 - 12/05/2012
 Meeting 4 - 04/04/2013
 Meeting 5 - 06/27/2013


Reports having no URL can be seen
at the Public Access Records Office
The Growth of Incarceration in the United States: Exploring Causes and Consequences