More than 4.5 million people in America are on probation and parole and more than 700,000 people are serving sentences in local jails. These numbers combined account for nearly 2% of the U.S. adult population.
While the federal prison population receives most of the national policy attention, the population of people in community corrections is much larger. And research suggests that this group suffers more health problems, such as substance abuse and addiction, chronic health conditions, and mental health issues. At the same time, only half of local corrections departments offer treatment programs for substance abuse, and of those that do, only 5% of the corrections population participates in them.
Clearly, we know too little about the role communities can play in supporting and transforming the lives of those involved in the community corrections system.
LEO is aiming to change that. We're launching an initiative to use our rigorous research methods to shed light on the specific needs of the community corrections population and identify the best ways that local governments and service organizations can meet those needs.
Our initiative launched with a February convening of local government and social service leaders and academics with expertise in criminal justice issues. Central to the conversation was a paper written by Shawn Bushway, Senior Policy Researcher at the RAND Corporation, "On Targets for Interventions in Systems of Local Criminal Justice."
LEO is developing a research agenda based on learnings from Bushway's paper and the discussions at the convening. Next step: design a group of projects with local partners later this year that will focus on interventions at the community corrections level, and unlock the door to hope, opportunity, and dignity for the millions of Americans in our community justice systems.