Our Research Projects

Learn about SDP’s ongoing projects: researching an evidence-based screening tool to respond to probationers’ mental health needs, and exploring prosecutor-led gun diversion programs in several major cities

The Smart Decarceration Project at the University of Chicago’s Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice is bridging research and practice to reduce the over reliance on incarceration while addressing the racial and behavioral health disparities in the criminal justice system. Generating real-world evidence in close collaboration with local and national stakeholders, the Smart Decarceration Project seeks to reduce the use of incarceration by developing interventions that deliver tangible impact, informing the next generation of criminal justice policies and programs, and spearheading a cross-sector movement sustained by transdisciplinary dialogue.

Mass incarceration is unprecedented

 As of 2020, nearly

2.3 million

people are incarcerated in jails and prisons in the US.

An additional 3.6 million

people are on probation

Mass incarceration has unequal effects

Black/African Americans make up

40% of the US prison population,

but only

 13% of the total population

37%  of people in state and federal prisons have been diagnosed with a mental illness

Mass incarceration is ineffective 

At least

1 in 4

people who are in jail wll be arrested again in the same year

Low level misdemeanor offenses account for

over 25%

of the nation’s daily jail population.

(Data from Prison Policy Initiative)