The U.S. has one of the highest incarceration rates in the world—693 per 100,000 residents. Yet, despite our reliance on incarceration to combat crime, an estimated 40 percent of people released from prison are rearrested within three years.

In contrast, European nations rely more heavily on non-custodial penalties for nonviolent crimes, including day fines, restitution, and community service orders. For Germany and the Netherlands, these policies have resulted in significantly lower incarceration rates: 76 per 100,000 residents and 69 per 100,000 residents.

To see how these nations deal with crime and incarceration, and perhaps learn lessons for reform at home, Vera has led two delegations abroad to tour European prison systems. Delegations include state and local policymakers, corrections officials, judges, attorneys, and other stakeholders. 

Project Objectives

  • Certain European countries have much lower incarceration rates than the U.S.—what can we learn from their approach to justice? 

  • Can focusing on human dignity and rehabilitation, not retribution, produce greater public safety benefits and help to reduce recidivism?