New Book Provides Strategies for Smart Decarceration

By Michael C. Gross, Institute for Advancing Justice Research and Innovation & Smart Decarceration Initiative, George Warren Brown School of Social Work

“Smart Decarceration: Achieving Criminal Justice Transformation in the 21st Century” is a hopeful, commonsense book that explores innovative concepts in criminal justice reform, while also offering real-world, actionable solutions for inspiring an era of decarceration.

This timely tome tackles the often difficult questions surrounding mass incarceration and shows us a better way forward to transforming America’s economically and socially destabilizing criminal justice system in the 21st century. The chapters are written from various perspectives and disciplines, encompassing advocates, researchers, academics, practitioners and people with incarceration histories who are now leaders in the movement.

“The United States out-incarcerates every other developed nation in the world by a rate of several hundred per 100,000 people,” says Carrie Pettus-Davis, assistant professor at the George Warren Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis. And the cost of incarceration is staggering, exceeding 6 percent of gross domestic product.

Pettus-Davis is the co-director of the Smart Decarceration Initiative (SDI), based at the Brown School’s Center for Social Development, and director of the Institute for Advancing Justice Research and Innovation. She and Matthew Epperson, SDI co-director and associate professor at the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration, served as editors of the book, available through Oxford University Press.

“Promote smart decarceration” is one of the 12 Grand Challenges for Social Work, and SDI is leading the national charge.