Identifying a continuum of viable exit strategies from the criminal justice system

​​​Even short stays of incarceration can have deleterious impacts on individuals. The Smart Decarceration Initiative develops interventions at the front-end of the criminal justice system (e.g. prosecution, public defense, courts) to minimize the amount and severity of justice-system involvement and to reserve the use of lengthy incarceration for those who pose the greatest threat to public safety. Here is an example of SDI’s work on this strategic priority: 

Innovation Research on Deferred Prosecution
(Co-Principal Investigators Carrie Pettus-Davis and Matt Epperson)

SDI launched a two-year research project in 2016 to advance the implementation and rigorous testing of deferred prosecution programs—thanks to funding from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation. Deferred prosecution is an innovative but understudied intervention in which people charged with certain criminal offenses can be diverted from traditional court proceedings, avoiding both incarceration and the burdens of a criminal record. 

Researchers are studying the implementation processes of existing deferred prosecution programs in Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, and Cook County, Illinois, as well as engaging stakeholders in the city of St. Louis in planning for a similar program. The study will lead to the design of a multisite randomized control trial for these three urban Midwestern regions. 

The project has the potential to shape deferred prosecution programs across the country by generating much-needed evidence. Widespread use of effective deferred prosecution programs can funnel individuals out of the criminal justice system—reducing the incarcerated population. ​