Project

Public Safety Performance Project

Crime and correctional control—any court-ordered supervision of an individual, whether in the community, as with probation or parole, or in a facility, such as a jail or prison—create substantial burdens for governments, residents, and taxpayers. But decades of research have revealed a range of strategies that are more effective for achieving public safety.

Since 2005, The Pew Charitable Trusts and its partners have conducted research, provided technical assistance to governments, and made strategic grants to advance fiscally sound, data-driven criminal and juvenile justice policies and practices that protect public safety, ensure accountability, and reduce correctional populations and costs.

Building on this record, Pew is working with state and local officials to reform jail, community supervision, and juvenile justice systems by helping jurisdictions:

  • Safely reduce admissions to and the length of time people spend in jail, expand strategies to ensure that defendants appear in court, reduce the likelihood of re-arrest while awaiting trial, support crime victims, and better align public safety practices and investments with research and constitutional principles.
  • Decrease the size of probation and parole populations so that community supervision agencies can focus their limited resources on the individuals with the greatest needs, implement best practices to increase successful outcomes, and reduce returns to jail and prison for new offenses and technical violations (i.e., noncompliance with one or more supervision rules).
  • Reduce the number of young people who enter the juvenile court system and end up in state-funded residential facilities and improve the quality of services and supervision available in their home communities.
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Report

Policy Reforms Can Strengthen Community Supervision

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Report

Policy Reforms Can Strengthen Community Supervision

Since 1980, the nation’s community supervision population has ballooned by almost 240 percent. As of 2016, 1 in 55 U.S. adults (nearly 4.5 million people) are on probation or parole, more than twice the number incarcerated in state and federal prisons and local jails.

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Article

Why Hasn’t the Number of People in U.S. Jails Dropped?

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Article

Why Hasn’t the Number of People in U.S. Jails Dropped?

Federal statistics show that from 2010 to 2017, crimes, arrests, and resulting jail admissions fell by 14, 20, and 18 percent, respectively. In fact, there were 2 million fewer admissions to jails nationwide in 2017 than seven years earlier. Still, despite these positive trends, the total number of people in county and municipal jails remained virtually unchanged.

Article

Small but Growing Group Has Kept Jail Populations High

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Article

The COVID-19 pandemic has focused attention on the more than 700,000 people in jails across the United States because of the potential for spread of the virus to those working and confined there.

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Article

The Public Strongly Supports Cost-Effective Alternatives to Incarceration

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Article

The Public Strongly Supports Cost-Effective Alternatives to Incarceration

Voters’ top priority is keeping communities safe, but large majorities also believe that the nation imprisons too many people for too long.  A body of national- and state-level public opinion research dating to 2010 has found overwhelming support across political parties, regions, ages, genders, and racial/ethnic groups for policy changes that shift nonviolent offenders from prison to more effective, less expensive alternatives.

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Podcast

Reform in the Most Incarcerated State

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Podcast

Louisiana has the highest imprisonment rate in the U.S., but that may change as a result of comprehensive criminal justice reform passed this summer. Through a tremendous bipartisan effort, state leaders passed a package of bills that aims to reduce crime and incarceration through innovative, evidence-based means. That includes steering less serious offenders away from prison, strengthening alternatives to incarceration, and removing barriers to success during re-entry to society. Terry Schuster of Pew's public safety performance project speaks with host Dan LeDuc about why this change was important and what its impact could be. For more information on public safety, listen to the episode “Less Incarceration, Less Crime” to find out what two leaders in South Carolina did to slow prison growth and make communities safer.