The Emerging Adult Justice Project leads action-research projects focused on 18- to 25-year-olds involved in the justice system. Our mission is to inform and drive developmentally appropriate and effective justice responses that advance successful paths to adulthood.
After a sustained increase in the incarceration rate, the prison and jail population of the United States is now more than seven times higher than in the early 1970s. The growth in incarceration rates was produced by a transformation of sentencing policy and a new emphasis on incapacitation and deterrence as the main purposes of punishment. As incarceration rates have now started to decline slightly, a new conversation has started about alternatives to incarceration and continuing reductions in prison and jail populations.
Founded as either an up-front diversion from incarceration (probation) or a back-end release valve to prison crowding (parole), community corrections in the United States has grown far beyond what its founders could have imagined, with a profound, unintended impact on incarceration. With nearly five million adults under community corrections supervision in America (more than double the number in prison and jail), probation and parole have become a substantial contributor to our nation’s mass incarceration dilemma as well as a deprivation of liberty in their own right.
About 600,000 people are released from state and federal prison each year, returning overwhelmingly to neighborhoods of concentrated disadvantage. The Reentry Studies—the Boston Reentry Study and New York Reentry Study— are tailored to studying the process of transition from prison to community of a hard-to-reach population under contemporary conditions of mass incarceration.
Square One is taking on the fundamental issues: poverty and racial inequality, violence and safety, criminalization and punishment. We're challenging traditional responses to crime, and looking in new places for more effective responses, by asking a new question: if we start over from “square one,” how would justice policy be different?
For decades, the United States has relied on an archaic model of youth incarceration, sending youth to large, prison-like facilities that are far from their families and communities. This approach has disproportionately affected black and brown youth, perpetuating the country’s legacy of slavery and magnifying the cumulative disadvantages experienced by communities of color, and such as poverty and violence. Inside these facilities, youth may face violence and abuse, and over the long term, many struggle in school and have difficulty securing employment upon release.