Ending Mass IncarcerationReducing the Use of Jails

Treatment not Jail

It’s a truism by now that the criminal justice system, and jails in particular, are a dumping ground for people with substance abuse and mental health problems. We’re working to promote alternative sanctions and expand access to treatment.

That work features helping criminal justice and public health systems share data so that when people are arrested or detained their health records can be quickly accessed. In New York City, data sharing is becoming the basis for enhanced screening before people are formally charged with a crime. The goal: to divert more people away from jail—and perhaps out of the justice system entirely and into treatment. This is just one example of how we’re working with officials to fine tune practices that both curb incarceration and promote public health.

Related Work

Series: Addressing the Overuse of Segregation in U.S. Prisons and Jails

Corrections at a Crossroads

Ironically, prisons began as 19th century reforms—a movement away from the barbarism of public humiliation, corporal punishment, and executions. Practices like solitary confinement—pioneered at Eastern State Penitentiary and in Auburn Prison’s regime of silent, forced labor—were meant to rehabilitate incarcerated people. They reflected moralistic a ...

Blog Post
  • Sebastian Johnson
    Sebastian Johnson
February 24, 2020
Blog Post

Preventing Suicide and Self-Harm in Jail

A Sentinel Events Approach

Suicide is the leading cause of death in jails across the country. At a time when the public is paying closer attention to local jails and their primary role in mass incarceration, it is critical to shine light on the problem of jail suicide and the steps jails can take to prevent future deaths. This report is the second from Vera that frames suici ...

  • Jason Tan de Bibiana, Therese Todd, Leah Pope
July 08, 2019

A Path to Recovery

Treating Opioid Use in West Virginia's Criminal Justice System

In the United States, a disproportionate number of people who come into contact with the criminal justice system suffer from opioid use disorder. Key to confronting the opioid epidemic and related deaths is expanding access to a range of treatment options, including all forms of medication-assisted treatment (MAT). This report looks at how one stat ...

  • Ram Subramanian, Alison Shames
November 20, 2017

Greater Oklahoma City Chamber Criminal Justice Reform Task Force

Report and Recommendations

For years, Oklahoma County has been grappling with an overcrowded and run-down jail. With discussions abounding about whether to replace it with a larger facility, the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce convened a task force to examine the county’s local justice system and needs. Chaired by Clayton Bennett, chairman of the Oklahoma City Thun ...

  • Nancy Fishman, Kaitlin Kall, Hanna Dershowitz, Jessi LaChance, Stephen Roberts, Rebecca Silber
December 14, 2016

End of an Era?

The Impact of Drug Law Reform in New York City

In 2009, the latest in a series of reforms essentially dismantled New York State’s Rockefeller Drug Laws, eliminating mandatory minimum sentences for people convicted of a range of felony drug charges and increasing eligibility for diversion to treatment. To study the impact of these reforms, Vera partnered with the John Jay College of Criminal Jus ...

  • Jim Parsons, Qing Wei, Christian Henrichson, Ernest Drucker, Jennifer Trone
January 20, 2015