America’s prison population skyrocketed over the past few decades, largely as a result of state laws and policies that placed more people behind bars and kept them there longer. But proven strategies are available that offer a better public safety return on taxpayer dollars. Pew’s public safety performance project and its partners have worked directly with more than a dozen states to help them develop research-based sentencing and corrections policies and practices that slow the growth of prison costs while reducing re-offense rates and keeping communities safer.
The project supports efforts in select states that want better results from their sentencing and corrections systems. Along with partners, we diagnose the factors driving prison growth in those states and provide policy audits to identify options for reform, drawing on solid research, promising approaches, and best practices in other states. The project also helps state officials, practitioners, and others across the country share state-of-the-art knowledge and ideas through policy forums; public opinion surveys; multi-state meetings; national, regional, and state-level convenings; and online information about what works. Read our FAQ.
The project’s intensive technical assistance to states is provided as part of the Justice Reinvestment Initiative (JRI), a public-private partnership that includes the U.S. Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Assistance, The Pew Charitable Trusts, the Council of State Governments Justice Center, the Crime and Justice Institute, the Vera Institute of Justice, and other organizations. Since 2007, more than half of the states have participated in the JRI and made research-based policy changes to control prison growth, ensure accountability, and protect public safety. Although they vary in scope and significance, these reforms have sought to prioritize prison space for individuals incarcerated for serious and violent offenses while expanding alternatives to incarceration for those who can be supervised more effectively and at less expense in the community.