More than half of US states have taken steps in the past decade to reduce the number of people under correctional supervision and control skyrocketing costs without jeopardizing public safety. Research shows that reinvesting funds saved in local community-based organizations is an effective way to improve public safety. The Urban Institute is documenting strategies to achieve expansive, community-driven public safety investment and supporting jurisdictions interested in this model.
Law enforcement agencies are experimenting with social media to build stronger relationships with their communities. But are they using the most effective strategies? The Urban Institute is using big data to answer this question, digging into 500,000 tweets from law enforcement agencies and 65 million tweets that mention police. We also surveyed police about how they use social media, through a 2016 partnership with the International Association of the Chiefs of Police. These data will help us identify how law enforcement agencies can improve community policing and increase transparency and accessibility through social media.
Efforts to integrate arts and culture into projects focused on the physical, social, and economic well-being of neighborhoods have increasingly been referred to as creative placemaking. This work, while often incorporating traditional arts-related efforts like murals, music, sculpture, and dance, encompasses creative work more generally, such as promoting entrepreneurism, creatively engaging stakeholders and residents, and using space in novel ways. This project examines how creative placemaking efforts can enhance community safety, and how.
This series of publications shares research based on newly available business establishment and credit score data, along with gunshot and sociodemographic data by census tract and gun homicide data in six cities. While the specific types of local economic effects of gun violence differ by city, the results demonstrate that gun violence is detrimental to neighborhood economic health.
Gun violence affects us all. Urban’s Gun Violence Initiative is building the evidence base to achieve substantial and lasting gun violence reductions in communities across America.
Our researchers are working on various national and international studies on human trafficking. The research portfolio currently spans the United States and eight countries: Brazil, Cambodia, Colombia, Italy, Norway, the Philippines, Sierra Leone, and Taiwan. Areas of focus include child labor; commercial sexual exploitation of children; forced marriage; immigrants; juvenile justice–involved youth; labor trafficking; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer youth; and sex trafficking.
Given the high prevalence of mental health issues, substance abuse, and chronic health conditions among criminal justice populations, providing health care services to them could improve public health and public safety outcomes. This series of briefs highlights areas of flexibility within Medicaid that can facilitate enrollment in health coverage and access to care in the community for justice-involved people.
The Bending Towards Justice: Perceptions of Justice among Human Trafficking Survivors study is the first to directly ask survivors of human trafficking how they perceive their interactions with the justice system and how they define justice in their own terms.
Police and Communities
In partnership with police departments and communities across the country, the Urban Institute is examining current and future trends in law enforcement practice and technology. This includes evaluations of efforts to build trust between police and residents of high-crime, marginalized communities; studies of policing strategies; advances in technological tools, such as body cameras; efforts to address crime and safety through administrative records and systems; and work in forensic sciences during criminal investigations.
Reducing Correctional Control in America
More than 2.2 million people are incarcerated in American prisons and jails at an enormous cost—both human and financial—and a diminishing benefit to public safety. The Urban Institute is actively engaged in identifying and evaluating the most promising policies for reducing mass incarceration, from state and local initiatives, like Justice Reinvestment, to the Charles Colson Task Force on Federal Corrections, which addresses challenges in the federal system.
From 2011 through 2015, Urban Institute researchers documented the implementation of these Fatherhood Reentry programs and the responsible parenting, healthy marriage, and economic stability activities they provided to fathers and their families. The research publications below describe the programs’ varied approaches to implementation; the parenting, marriage, and economic stability activities offered to fathers; the solutions used to overcome implementation challenges and recommendations for practitioners looking to fund, design, and implement future fatherhood reentry programs.
The Safer Return Demonstration Project is designed to address the problems formerly incarcerated people face when returning to their community by bringing together the best and most promising practices into one reentry program. Urban Institute researchers are evaluating how this Chicago-based initiative is affecting former prisoners, families, and the surrounding community.
Since the 1980s, jail populations have more than tripled, making jails a critical part of our nation's incarceration problem. Jail detention can place people on a slippery slope that leads to more punitive sentences, job or housing loss, worsened health, and more. The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation has partnered with the Urban Institute to host the Innovation Fund, supporting 20 jurisdictions in designing and testing innovative local justice reforms to safely decrease jail usage and reduce racial and ethnic disparities in their local justice systems.
Urban Institute researchers are conducting a Juvenile Second Chance Act evaluation to assess how national reentry demonstration projects reduce reoffending, increase public safety, and facilitate successful reintegration for high-risk youth offenders through the provision of comprehensive, coordinated transition services. The Urban Institute and RTI International are evaluating programs under the Adult Second Chance Act that target adults returning to their communities from county jails and state prisons. These programs are intended to provide broad-based reentry assistance to participants both before and after release.
In response to the need for jurisdictions across the country to address jail to community transitions, the National Institute of Corrections partnered with the Urban Institute in 2007 to launch the Transition from Jail to Community (TJC) initiative. The TJC model aims to improve public safety and reintegration outcomes.
Criminal justice policymakers, practitioners, and anyone with an interest in prisoner reentry can access strong research evidence on a wide array of programs and practices that most successfully reintegrate returning prisoners. Focus areas include education, housing, employment, and mental health and substance abuse treatment. The What Works in Reentry Clearinghouse was developed for the National Reentry Resource Center by the Council of State Governments Justice Center and the Urban Institute.
Large US cities need innovative and comprehensive strategies to prevent and respond to the threat of gang violence. In Los Angeles, Urban Institute researchers are evaluating the Gang Reduction and Youth Development program, a large-scale gang prevention and intervention effort in 12 distinct communities throughout the city. In Chicago, researchers are assessing the Chicago Violence Reduction Strategy, which aims to reduce violence by targeting the groups disproportionately responsible for crime.
This project evaluated expanding DNA evidence collection and testing—used mostly in violent criminal investigations—to investigate of property crimes. Researchers found that, in property crime cases where DNA evidence was processed, more than twice as many suspects were identified, twice as many suspects were arrested, and more than twice as many cases were accepted for prosecution compared with traditional investigation.
Federal Justice Statistics Resource Center (1994–2014)
For 20 years, the Urban Institute administered the Federal Justice Statistics Resource Center (FJSRC), a Bureau of Justice Statistics database that contains information about suspects and defendants processed in the federal criminal justice system. Using data obtained from federal agencies, the FJSRC compiles comprehensive information describing defendants from each stage of federal criminal case processing.
The Multi-Site Adult Drug Court Evaluation analyzed the effects of adult drug courts on participants and evaluated the impacts of different drug court models. Researchers found that drug courts produced significant reductions in drug relapse and criminal behavior.
Returning Home was a multistate longitudinal study that documented the pathways of prisoner reintegration, examined what factors contributed to successful or unsuccessful reentry, and identified how those factors couldinform policy.
The Urban Institute evaluated the use of public surveillance systems—once referred to as closed-circuit televisions—to prevent crime and disorder in four US cities. Researchers investigated the role of public surveillance in reducing crime near the cameras and the degree to which these systems support police arrests, investigations, and prosecutions. The study concluded that where cameras were sufficiently concentrated and routinely monitored by trained staff, crime was reduced cost-effectively, with no evidence of crime displacement.