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Examining U.S. Corrections Policy
By .thecrimereport.org - Ted Gest
Published: 04/10/2012

Eighteen of the country’s leading scholars and experts on corrections and related fields have launched a major project to study the “causes and consequences of high rates of incarceration” in the United States.

The panel of scholars, chaired by Jeremy Travis, president of John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, will examine the reasons for the dramatic increases in U.S. incarceration rates since the 1970s, which have produced one of the world’s highest incarceration levels—with more than 2.3 million people behind bars in U.S. prisons and jails at any time

The topic has been widely discussed and analyzed for years by advocacy groups on the left and right, as well as by individual scholars. But the two-year, $1.5 million project, convened by the National Research Council (part of the National Academy of Sciences) represents the first time in recent memory that these issues have been subject to wide-ranging, cross-disciplinary research.

“It now is time to review the state of knowledge—to look at the causes of the high rate of incarceration and the consequences for society,” said Travis, author of But They All Came Back: Facing the Challenges of Prisoner Reentry (2005).

Travis, who also served as Deputy Commissioner for Legal Matters for the New York City Police Department from 1990-1994, noted that “the incarceration rate has peaked after a five-fold increase in 40 years, and the numbers in some states have started to decline.”

Project funding is split between the National Institute of Justice—the Department of Justice research arm that Travis formerly headed—and the Chicago-based John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation,

The group will examine a wide range of issues related to U.S. corrections, including the costs and benefits of current sentencing and incarceration policies, and it will explore any evidence that “alternative punishments might achieve similar public safety benefits and lower financial and social costs,” according to the official announcement of the project.

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