Prisons in America house more than 1.3 million people, employ more than 200,000 corrections officers in state-run institutions, and consume a significant share of state budgets. Yet despite their scale and impact, they are among the least transparent and most understudied public institutions in our country.
To bridge this knowledge gap, we have launched the Prison Research and Innovation Initiative, a comprehensive effort to build evidence and spur innovation to make prisons more humane, safe, and rehabilitative environments. With support from Arnold Ventures, this five-year project will leverage research and evidence to shine a much-needed light on prison conditions and pilot strategies to promote the well-being of people who live and work behind bars.
An Evidence-Based Approach to Prison Reform
We are pursuing a new evidence-based approach to prison reform. This effort aims to advance a national movement of thought leaders committed to redefining the corrections profession and supporting ongoing prison reform efforts.
Key components of the Initiative include the following:
- The Prison Research and Innovation Network: We will support a consortium of five states, each working to establish a model of transparency, accountability, and innovation in one prison with the support of a research partner to enhance research and data capacity.
- Cross-site data collection and assessment: We will launch a climate survey of the people confined and working in each facility, designed in partnership with both, to measure the experience of living and working in prison.
- Policy landscape analysis: Review existing and potential state legislative and administrative measures to identify reforms that promote improved prison environments and enhance transparency.
- Strategic outreach: We will draw national attention to the problem of prisons in America by enlisting the input and expertise of state and national stakeholders, including people who have experienced incarceration, and by promoting awareness of the challenges of current prison operations and the importance of new, more robust accountability measures. We will establish a national advisory board to inform our efforts, convene a series of roundtables to establish a research agenda on prisons, engage in outreach to partners in the prison reform space, and develop a robust dissemination plan to elevate the experiences, lessons learned, and impacts achieved by participating states.
To learn more about this exciting initiative and to sign up for project updates, please contact TransformPrison@urban.org.
We have selected the states for phase 1 of the Prison Research and Innovation Network. Click HERE for more information.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Get to know our Advisory Board for the Prison Research and Innovation Initiative, an effort to infuse prisons with research, evidence, transparency, and innovation to promote the well-being of people who live and work there. This distinguished group includes advocates on behalf of incarcerated people, researchers, corrections officers/leadership, state leaders, and union representatives.
View video from a public convening on prison research and innovation, and stay tuned for future events.