Smart Decarceration Initiative: Transforming Criminal Justice in the U.S.
Smart Decarceration Initiative aims to build social capacity to reduce incarceration rates in ways that are effective, sustainable and socially just. 

Achieving smart decarceration will require major shifts in the criminal justice system. For the country to achieve effective, sustainable, and socially just decarceration—smart decarceration—the following three outcomes must be accomplished:
  • Substantially reduce the incarcerated population in jails and prisons.
  • Redress the existing social disparities among the incarcerated.
  • Maximize public safety and well-being.

We achieve smart decarceration through two focus areas: 

  • Applied research to advance front-end criminal justice innovations
  • Preparing the profession of social work for smart decarceration leadership

Applied Research to Advance Front-End Criminal Justice Innovations
Engaging with various stakeholders at the front-end of the criminal justice system, Smart Decarceration Initiative conducts applied research—developing, implementing, and testing evidence-driven practice and policy interventions to reduce the use of incarceration. 

Preparing the Profession of Social Work for Smart Decarceration Leadership
Smart decarceration entails more than simply not incarcerating. It involves developing an array of more effective and socially just alternatives to replace incarceration. Guided by our profession’s social justice orientation and commitment to working with marginalized populations, social work scholars and practitioners should be leaders in efforts to reform the criminal justice system in the era of decarceration.

In the Spotlight

Practitioner and Policymaker Tools
Smart Decarceration Initiative has prepared a number of tools for practitioners and policymakers to advance smart decarceration.

“Guideposts for the Era of Smart Decarceration”  This report contains a set of guideposts and practical action steps to facilitate decarcerative change. This document is the result of a three-phase qualitative and quantitative research study with close to 200 stakeholders, nationwide, in the criminal justice field.
"National Survey of Community Bail Funds" This report summarizes key themes, program components and recommendations for communities seeking to implement a community bail fund. This document is based on a survey of seven community bail funds across the country, in various stages of implementation, in order to assess the acceptability and feasibility of the community bail fund model. 

Tools and Tactics: Promising Solutions to Advance the Era of Smart Decarceration
On November 2nd-4th, Smart Decarceration Initiative hosted its second national conference at the University of Chicago. The goal of this conference was to promote the integration of research, practice, and policy into the development of promising solutions for the era of smart decarceration. To see the full conference report, click here.

Smart Decarceration: Achieving Criminal Justice Transformation in the 21st Century
As a follow-up to the first national conference on decarceration, SDI produced an edited book titled Smart Decarceration: Achieving Criminal Justice Transformation in the 21st Century, in 2017 from Oxford University Press. The volume takes up the challenge of transforming America’s approach to criminal justice in a forward-thinking and solutions-focused manner—detailing evidence, conceptual frameworks, and an action plan for sustainable and effective decarceration. The primary purpose of this book is to inform both academic and public understanding, to place the challenge of smart decarceration at the center of the current national discourse, and to propose beginning action steps.

Promote Smart Decarceration is a Grand Challenge of Social Work
Promote Smart Decarceration is one of the 12 Grand Challenges for Social Work. The Promote Smart Decarceration Network seeks to develop a proactive, comprehensive, evidence-driven “smart decarceration” strategy that will dramatically reduce the number of people who are imprisoned and enable the nation to embrace a more effective and just approach to public safety and well-being. This work provides an opportunity to engage and mobilize social work scholars and practitioners in developing and executing an actionable agenda for smart decarceration.

Listen to Smart Decarceration leaders Matthew Epperson and Carrie Pettus-Davis discuss their research and efforts to provide an alternative to the mass incarceration movement in the United States. 

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