Forecasting the Impact of Prison Reforms


A new tool developed by the non-profit Urban Institute aims to estimate the potential “effect, by state, of policies that aim to reduce prison admissions and length of stay for the most common types of offenses.”

The Prison Population Forecaster uses data from 15 states, which account for about 40 percent of the national prison population, “to forecast population trends and project the impact of changes on rates of admission or lengths of stay in prison.”

Researchers who analyzed prison populations with the tool concluded that reducing mass incarceration won’t be easy. For instance, cutting sentences in half for any individual crime would reduce the prison population by 15 percent or less, the tool finds.

“Cutting drug admissions in half would shrink the prison population by 7 percent, or almost 33,000 inmates, by the end of 2021,” Urban Institute researchers write.

They conclude that that a combination of policies will be required to reduce prison populations.

Pairing further reductions in admissions for drug and property offenses with reductions in lengths of stay for violent offenses is the surest way to meaningfully and sustainably reduce the prison population,” researchers write.

Use the tool and read the Urban Institute’s full findings HERE.

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