One purpose of the workshop was to inform a consensus committee pulled together by the National Research Council (NRC), which is now examining the causes and consequences of high rates of incarceration in the United States. The charge given to that study committee is provided in Box I-1 and covers a broad range of consequences, including those on the health, both physical and mental, of incarcerated populations. The committee will produce its own report at the conclusion of its study. The committee asked workshop presenters to review what is known about the health of incarcerated individuals, the healthcare they receive, and effects
Committee on Causes and Consequences of High Rates of Incarceration Statement of Task
An ad hoc panel will conduct a study and prepare a report that will focus on the scientific evidence that exists on the use of incarceration in the United States and will propose a research agenda on the use of incarceration and alternatives to incarceration for the future. The study will explore the causes of the dramatic increases in incarceration rates since the 1970s, the costs and benefits of the nation’s current sentencing and incarceration policies, and whether there is evidence that alternative policies would more effectively promote public safety and community wellbeing.
Recognizing that research evidence will vary in its strength and consistency, the panel will undertake the following tasks:
1. Describe and assess the existing research on the causes, drivers, and social context of incarceration in the United States over the past 30-40 years. To what extent does existing research suggest that incarceration rates were influenced by historical and contemporary changes in:
a. operations of criminal justice system and other public sector systems that may affect rates of arrest or conviction, and nature and severity of sanctions: such as patterns of policing, prosecution, sentencing, prison operations, and parole practices;
b. legal and judicial policies: such as changes in law, institutional policies and practices, and judicial rulings affecting conditions for arrest, sanctions for various crimes, drug enforcement policies, and policies regarding parole and parole revocation; and
c. social and economic structure and political conditions: such as criminal behavior, cultural shifts, changes in political attitudes and behavior, changes in public opinion, demographic changes, and changes in the structure of economic opportunity.