Incentivizing Justice Reform

Inside Criminal Justice
The Crime Report, Nov. 25, 2013

“Federal grant money currently incentivizes unwise policy choices, and instead should be linked to modern criminal justice goals, according to a new policy proposal from the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University.

The proposal’s authors argue that the $352 million Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) Program should be used as a tool to promote innovative crime-reduction policies nationwide.

The federal government currently asks states to report information such as the number of arrests made and the amount of cocaine seized, but not whether the crime rate dropped or whether defendants have been screened for drug addiction.

REFORM_FUND_MASS_INCARC_v6_Page_01Under the Brennan proposal, “the goals for state and local agencies would drive toward a system that reduces crime and alleviates mass incarceration, while making more efficient use of taxpayer money. It can be applied to all criminal justice funding streams – federal, state, and local.”

The authors point out in the proposal that it can be implemented without legislation by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Read the full proposal:
Inimai Chettiar, Lauren-Brooke Eisen, and Nicole Fortier with Timothy Ross, 66 pages

“Implementing Success-Oriented Funding in JAG (Justice Assistance Grants) could help move the country toward a more effective and just criminal system. States have been leading the way in reducing mass incarceration. It is time for the federal government to send a clear signal encouraging states and thousands of localities to spend federal dollars on what works to reduce crime and alleviate mass incarceration. As a first step, DOJ can implement robust performance measures for the country’s largest grant program that affects the breadth of criminal justice system practice across the country.

Applying the Success-Oriented Funding model to JAG can also serve as a model for other grants and budgets at the federal, state, and local level. By implementing direct links between funding and proven results, governments can ensure the criminal justice system is producing results while not increasing unintended social costs. This report’s proposed performance measures for JAG are broad enough to serve as a starting point on which to build out measures for other programs and local agencies.

Reform would come at a signal moment for criminal justice policy. Old ideological boundaries are blurring. Policymakers at all levels are recognizing the opportunity to act. Using Success-Oriented Funding to shift incentives could reverberate nationwide, moving the country away from mass incarceration.”


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