There is a moral and strategic imperative to reshape police culture and incentives to ensure that the exercise of police discretion is more deliberate, transparent, and accountable and that policing practices are focused more tightly on dramatically reining in arrests, while promoting lesser forms of enforcement and holding officers and departments accountable.
(Key takeaway, Vera Institute of Justice)
Published August 2019
Police in America arrest millions of people each year, and the likelihood that arrest will lead to jail incarceration has increased steadily: for every 100 arrests police officers made in 2016, there were 99 jail admissions, up from 70 jail admissions for every 100 arrests in 1994. Ending mass incarceration and repairing its extensive collateral consequences thus must begin by focusing on the front end of the system: police work. Recognizing the roughly 18,000 police agencies around the country as gatekeepers of the system, this report explores the factors driving mass enforcement, particularly of low-level offenses; what police agencies could do instead with the right community investment, national and local leadership, and officer training, incentives, and support; and policies that could shift the policing paradigm away from the reflexive use of enforcement, which unnecessarily criminalizes people and leads directly to the jailhouse door.