Advancing innovations inside and outside the criminal justice system

Through rigorous and community-engaged research, the Smart Decarceration Project is developing initiatives that are positioned to deliver impact and reduce racial and behavioral health disparities. SDP is studying the development and effectiveness of deferred prosecution programs in Chicago and Milwaukee, working closely with local prosecutor offices. These programs divert people from being charged with criminal offenses, reducing the number of individuals entering the criminal justice system. 

In another project, SDP is collaborating with community stakeholders to better understand and measure social capacity – a community’s ability to define and address behavioral health needs without the overuse of incarceration. SDP is developing and testing a social capacity assessment tool in two high-incarceration Chicago communities – Austin and Washington Park. 

The Smart Decarceration Project  is also working with the Cook County Adult Probation Department and the Cook County Health Department to study the implementation of a novel and evidence-based mental health screening tool, Computer Adaptive Testing-Mental Health (CAT-MH™)This project seeks to help probation systems respond more efficiently to probationers’ mental health needs by developing evidence on effective models of identifying people with serious mental illnesses (SMI) within probation systems. This study represents the first application of this type of assessment method within a probation setting and sets the stage for future studies on interventions to address SMI needs and criminogenic risk within probation population.

Fostering transdisciplinary dialogue and collaboration

Recognizing that achieving smart decarceration requires multiple perspectives and experiences having a seat at the table, SDP organizes diverse opportunities for engagement through local and national events that bring together people with lived experience, researchers, policy makers, and practitioners to stimulate new and collaborative approaches to decarceration work.

Leading one of the “12 Grand Challenges for Social Work”  

Through a peer-selected competition, the American Academy of Social Work & Social Welfare (AASWSW) selected Promote Smart Decarceration as one of the 12 Grand Challenges for Social Work. SDP co-directs this Grand Challenge, coordinating the efforts of over fifty social work scholars and practitioners who are actively preparing the social work profession to lead the field of decarceration.

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