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, said SDI Faculty Directors Carrie Pettus-Davis and Matthew Epperson.
The study will lead to the design of a multisite randomized control trial for several urban regions. The project has the potential to shape deferred prosecution programs across the country by generating much-needed evidence, Pettus-Davis and Epperson said.
Widespread use of effective deferred prosecution programs can create exit points for individuals out of the criminal justice system. The long-term goal of SDI is to test and generate effective strategies that can reduce the use of incarceration in the United States.