In the News
The Smart Decarceration network, led by Carrie Pettus-Davis and Matt Epperson at the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration, focuses on developing effective and socially just alternatives to replace incarceration, primarily at the state level which houses the bulk of the nation’s 2.2 million people behind bars.
The announcement Friday morning that Attorney General Jeff Sessions has rescinded guidance issued during the Obama administration that sought to reduce the number of non-violent drug offenders who wind up in prison will have an impact that extends beyond the bounds of law enforcement and into the arena of the federal budget.
The United States is the world’s leader in incarceration, spending $52 billion a year on correctional supervision and another $948 billion in related social costs. What can be done to shrink the prison system?
Finding stable, affordable housing is rarely easy, no matter who you are. Doing so after years behind bars can be nearly impossible. Between 70 and 90 percent of people returning from prison move in with a family member or loved one, according to Carrie Pettus-Davis, a leading reentry expert and the director of the Institute for Advancing Justice Research and Innovation, a criminal justice think tank at Washington University in St. Louis.
In a memo to the Bureau of Prisons Thursday, the attorney general rolled back Obama-era guidance in which then-Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates directed the BOP not to renew contracts with private prisons. Attorney General Sessions wrote that Ms. Yates’ August order “impaired the Bureau’s ability to meet the future needs of the federal correctional system.”
The campaign for St. Louis’s next mayor heated up last week when one of its candidates, Tishaura O. Jones, the city’s treasurer, decided to skip a meeting with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s editorial board. It appears that she is unconcerned with obtaining the newspaper’s endorsement. We know this because she wrote a letter to a member of the editorial board, Tod Robberson, stating as much. The letter ran in the St. Louis American, the city’s African-American newspaper, and has since become a viral sensation.
The gathering at the Brown School last week advanced that idea with details from the 12 issue groups who made presentations and several panels of experts—some not social workers—who offered their perspectives on the endeavor and ideas that could broaden its appeal.
The 12 Grand Challenges for Social Work as envisioned by the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare (AASWSW) has galvanized a significant number of social workers—not all, but mostly academics—around the notion that sustained focus on key issues relevant to creating and maintaining a just society for all people can be pushed in that direction with leadership from the social work profession.
It's commonly said that mass incarceration costs the United States $80 billion a year. That figure is based on how much the country spends solely on prisons themselves (though even this accounting has been called into question). However, new research published in July by professors at Washington University argues that this number is misleading, and doesn't factor in many other costs brought about by mass incarceration, including those paid by the prisoners, their families, children, and the community at large. The actual fiscal cost of mass incarceration, the research claims, is more than $1 trillion.
The cost of incarceration in the United States exceeds $1 trillion, or six percent of the gross domestic product, and dwarfs the amount spent on corrections alone, finds a new study from Washington University in St. Louis.