Transforming the System


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Creating smart incentives and requiring proper accountability

There are a multitude of perverse incentives that encourage the continuous reliance on incarceration. Current performance measures, for example, focus on the volume of prosecutions and incarcerations rather than decreases in crime or improvements in community safety.

In order to promote efficient and effective law enforcement, current performance measures should be modified to support evidence-based strategies that promote community safety. New strategies that deliberately incentivize reducing incarceration should be adopted.

To this end, the Department of Justice should:

  • Create a Department of Justice Taskforce that would identify criminal justice grants for which smart incentives could be used to promote criminal justice reform and adopt the recommendations of the Taskforce; and
  • Encourage law enforcement actors to abandon volume-based metrics in performance evaluations by evaluating officers on levels of diversion to programs that do not require a criminal conviction; reduction of racial disparities in civilian contacts and/or low-levels of racial disparities; and self-provided reports of instances where they opted to engage in problem solving to diffuse a situation rather than detain individuals.

In addition, Congress, and state, county, local and legislatures should pass legislation that:

  • Prohibits volume-based performance measures for criminal justice actors;
  • Provides protection for whistle-blowers to report unofficial volume-based performance metrics and strict penalties for law enforcement agencies with such unofficial policies;
  • Creates incentives for law enforcements agencies that are able to reduce undue racial inequities by, for example, evaluating racial disparities in individual officers contacts with the community, as compared to the community population; evaluating police officers by the demographic information of those who have filed a complaint against that police officer;
  • Ensures that predictive policing programs, such as CompStat, are not inadvertently used to unnecessarily increase arrests, and officers are instructed that knowledge of “hot spots” does not provide a basis for searching and/or seizing individuals at the hot spot locations;
  • Promotes diversity amongst criminal justice system actors by requiring that criminal justice demographic profile match that of the community within 10 percentage points; and
  • Requires transparency in law enforcement by making data publicly available. This data should include comprehensive data disaggregated by incident and demographic information at various points in the criminal justice system.

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