Decarceration Projects
The Smart Decarceration Initiative (SDI) has launched a two-year research project to advance “deferred prosecution” programs, thanks to funding from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation. Deferred prosecution is an innovative but understudied intervention: People charged with certain criminal offenses can be diverted from traditional court proceedings and, if things go well, avoid incarceration. Researchers will study how existing deferred prosecution programs were implemented in Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, and Cook County, Illinois. They also will engage potential future adopters of such programs like stakeholders in the City of St. Louis. The study will lead to the design of a multisite randomized control trial for several urban regions. Widespread use of effective deferred prosecution programs can create exit points for individuals out of the criminal justice system.

Smart Decarceration Initiative is leading the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare Grand Challenge – Promote Smart Decarceration. This work represents an opportunity to position the social work profession as leaders in the decarceration movement. Over 100 social work scholars and practitioners have joined together to identify, develop, and implement actionable steps to promote smart decarceration in three primary areas of social work: 1-Research; 2-Practice; and 3-Education.

Individuals with mental health and substance use disorders are overrepresented in a criminal justice system that is ill-equipped to treat them and they often return to communities that lack adequate resources and capacity to respond to their behavioral health needs. Smart Decarceration Initiative engages with community partners in developing a social capacity framework to promote behavioral health for people involved in the criminal justice system. Social capacity is a community's ability to work together to build and sustain their own solutions, rather than give responsibility primarily to an external set of actors. A social capacity framework will guide researchers and practitioners in the design and implementation of community-based interventions that improve behavioral health outcomes and reduce criminal justice involvement.

Smart Decarceration Initiative is partnering with the St. Louis Integrated Health Network, City of St. Louis, Brown School Evaluation Center and a dozen other community agencies in order to improve health outcomes for minority reentrants in transition from jail to their communities. The Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Minority Health, awarded the grant to 7 recipients nationwide in order to improve coordination of services, reduce health disparities, and increase accessed to needed public health, behavioral health, health care coverage, and other social services. SDI will share its expertise on criminal justice-involved populations and serve as members of the evaluation team for the project.

Smart Decarceration Initiative is collaborating with St. Louis, Missouri, criminal justice entities to research, design, implement, and evaluate evidence-based policies and practices to reduce the incarcerated population in the region.