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What can We Do:



A Collaboration between unis Human Rights Project & Proof: Media for Social Justice

The criminal justice system in the United States prioritizes punishment. It is based on a method of retributive justice that asks, “What law was broken? Who broke it? What punishment is warranted?”  The result has been mass incarceration, high rates of recidivism and little victim satisfaction, all to the cost of over 180 billion dollars a year.

But there are other approaches to justice that go beyond punishment to focus on healing and repair, and that seek to address the root causes of crime and violence. These methods find strong support among those who have experienced crime. A national survey found that 69% of survivors of violent crimes said they supported holding people accountable through options other than prison, including rehabilitation, drug and mental health treatment and community supervision.

Restorative justice processes bring together people who have committed harm with those affected by their actions. They give survivors a central voice in the process and enable those who are responsible to acknowledge the impact of their actions and do their best to repair the damage. These programs do what prisons typically fail to do: They hold people accountable in a meaningful way. Restorative justice has been successful in reducing recidivism. Its use in school settings has led to reductions in suspensions and expulsions, and has kept youth out of the school to prison pipeline. Crime survivors also report satisfaction with restorative justice approaches, which have  been shown to deliver a greater sense of justice and safety, and reduce posttraumatic stress symptoms. Ninety percent of crime survivors who participated in restorative justice stated that they were more pleased with the process than with standard court proceedings.

A justice reinvestment approach is one that advocates for taking the billions of dollars spent on incarceration and reinvesting it in root cause solutions to crime and violence such as education, community centers, mental health and addiction treatment, employment training, housing and other programs. Investments in people, communities and in the incarcerated have been the most effective when it comes to reducing crime and recidivism rates. Prisoners who take part in postsecondary education and training programs are 43% less likely to return to prison, according to one study. Another study conducted in NYC found that youth on probation who took part in a community mentorship program had a 69% lower recidivism rate within a year of starting the program than youth who did not participate. In a city with 100,000 people, every organization formed to confront violence and build stronger neighborhoods led to about a 1% drop in violent crime and murder, found another study.

Test your knowledge.

Chapter 17 — Question 01

A study conducted by the Rand Corporation found that prisoners who take part in postsecondary education and training programs are _____ % less likely to return to prison.

Correct! Wrong!

Postsecondary education and training programs yield a 43% decrease in likelihood of returning to prison.

Chapter 17 — Question 01

T. Haywood

Lead Mentor Arches/ Next STEPS programs, The Osborne Association

RIP: Rest in peace? Rot in prison? Or re-invest in people? These are the choices that the young people I work with have. So why is more energy focused on the first two? A long time ago, I decided that if I was ever released, I would make it my mission to redirect youth away from prison. What people don’t understand is that these youth have trauma in their lives and we need to meet them there. We assume they have certain skills but they don't always. And their frustration comes out in the street. We have to offer them another world and give them choices.