“Smart Decarceration Intiative” Discusses Ways To Cut Imprisonment In U.S.


More than 150 people are gathering today at Washington University in St. Louis to ponder a radical remake of the way incarceration is used in the U.S., reports St. Louis Public Radio. The conference is the first major undertaking for the Smart Decarceration Initiative. Carrie Pettus-Davis of the Brown School of Social Work at Washington University is one of the organizers. She says, “Our goal is to substantially reduce incarceration rates, ameliorate social disparities in our criminal justice system, and promote public safety and well-being … to do so, we have to have multi-sector criminal justice reform that is evidence-driven, empirically focused, and thoughtful.”

Pettus-Davis notes that the population of psychiatric hospitals was cut by 60 percent within a decade, but advocates “did not sufficiently think through and resource alternatives in the community. So what we said was ‘trans-institutionalization,’ where people with serious mental illnesses did not get appropriate supports in the community and are now housed in our jails and prisons.” She faulted some current reform efforts, such as seeking shorter prison sentences. “Shortened sentences still incarcerate someone,” she said. “There are still dramatic negative effects. Letting people out without appropriate supports still sets people up to fail.”

Comments are closed.