2015 News

‘Our goal is to substantially reduce incarceration rates’

Answering the call to participate in the Smart Decarceration Initiative’s first conference, about 150 people from throughout the country gathered September 24-27 at Washington University in St. Louis to work on redefining justice in America. 

Carrie Pettus-Davis, PhD, assistant professor at the Brown School and co-director of the initiative, urged the group to work on ways evidence-driven reforms can become central to determining which programs will work to keep people out of prison and rehabilitate others.

The Smart Decarceration Initiative (SDI) is about figuring out a road map, Pettus-Davis says. “Our goal is to substantially reduce incarceration rates, ameliorate social disparities in our criminal justice system, and promote public safety and well-being,” she told St. Louis Public Radio before the conference opened.

Co-director Matt Epperson, PhD, assistant professor at the School of Social Service Administration at University of Chicago, noted bipartisan agreement exists for an overhaul of jail and prison systems. “The political will for mass incarceration has all but dried up,” he told conference attendees.

The Center for Social Development (CSD) hosted the conference, “From Mass Incarceration to Effective and Sustainable Decarceration,” at the Brown School’s Hillman Hall, bringing together top thinkers in policy, practice and research to present their work and to help set an agenda for moving decarceration forward. As CSD Director Michael Sherraden, PhD, said while opening the conference, “Humans have created mass incarceration, and we have the ability to uncreate it.”

Click here to view sessions from the conference, including the Conference Opening and Keynote and the McLeod Memorial Lecture Series on Higher Education​.

Members of the media also attended the conference, and here is the coverage:

To learn more about ending mass incarceration, see “Smart Decarceration: Guiding Concepts for an Era of Criminal Justice Transformation,”​ by Epperson and Pettus-Davis.