Giving Compass’ Take:
• Vox reports on a program from the Open Philanthropy Project that examined the length of prison sentences in relation to crime rates and found this: “[B]uilding and filling prisons is not making people safer.”
• What can those dedicated to criminal justice reform due with the data compiled by the study described in this piece? How can we reach out to give formerly incarcerated people more economic opportunities and reduce recidivism?
When the Open Philanthropy Project began a grant program for criminal justice reform, it asked itself a tricky question: Are we doing the right thing?
The project’s organizers believed that pushing for lower prison sentences, particularly for minor offenses, would not lead to more crime. This was supported by a general understanding of the past few decades of experience and research in the US. But the organization, ever skeptical of even its own biases, decided to run the numbers itself.
The analysis looked at the effects before, during, and after incarceration: essentially, deterrence, incapacitation, and aftereffects (whether and how someone changes behavior after incarceration). He focused on studies that leveraged experimental or quasi-experimental settings to look at the best possible evidence, covering 35 studies in all.
There are essentially two sides to the aftereffects: On the positive, prison can cause someone to be less likely to re-offend — by giving people a bad experience that they do not want to go through again, by connecting them with job training or addiction treatment, and so on. On the negative, prison can lead to more criminality — by connecting inmates to social networks of people in gangs or other criminal activity, or by making it much harder to get a legal job due to a criminal record.
Read the full article about how longer prison sentences do not reduce crime by German Lopez at Vox.com.
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