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Justice and public safety strategies to strengthen families

Justice and public safety strategies can reduce levels of incarceration, help formerly incarcerated individuals successfully re-enter society, and improve neighborhood safety, all of which strengthen family stability.

Children in families that do not experience incarceration or violence see better outcomes at every life stage.

How do justice issues impact family well-being?

Low-income individuals who have never been incarcerated experience higher rates of upward economic mobility. 1

Among individuals from very low-income families, individuals who have been incarcerated are twice as likely to remain in the bottom quintile of earnings in the long term than individuals who are never incarcerated.

Individuals and families who have not experienced incarceration have higher earnings. 2

While a father is incarcerated, family income is 22 percent lower on average than before the father was incarcerated. A year after a father is released, family income remains 15 percent lower than it was prior to incarceration. Individuals who have been incarcerated experience $179,000 in decreased earnings over the course of their lives, on average.

Children whose fathers have never been incarcerated are less likely to be expelled or suspended from school. 3

23 percent of children whose fathers have been incarcerated are expelled or suspended from school, compared to 4 percent of children whose fathers have not been incarcerated.

Being stopped by police negatively affects adolescents’ mental health and may increase engagement in criminal behavior. 4

Adolescent boys who are stopped by police report greater psychological distress and more frequent engagement in delinquent behavior 6, 12, and 18 months later, independent of prior delinquency. The younger boys are when they are first stopped, the stronger the negative effects.

As of 2010, 2.7 million children had an incarcerated parent. 5

Two-thirds of incarcerated parents are imprisoned for non-violent offenses.

Categories of successful interventions

  • Diversion programs: Court-mandated programs that provide alternatives to incarceration, including education, rehabilitation, community service, or restitution
  • Mentoring, counseling, and case management: Clinical and social supports that seek to address trauma, improve mental health, and increase general well-being
  • Re-entry programs: Programs that help individuals returning from prison find housing, employment, and other support services

Evidence-based interventions

Intervention Type Category Evidence Level ARP Eligibility
Adult reentry programs Strategy
  • Re-entry programs
Strong (second-highest tier) No
Alcohol outlet density restrictions Policy
  • Community health programs
  • Substance use prevention programs
Proven (highest tier) No
Center for Employment Opportunities Program
  • Re-entry programs
  • Transitional jobs
Proven (highest tier) No
Cognitive behavioral therapy for offenders Strategy
  • Mentoring, counseling, and case management
Strong (second-highest tier) No
Corrections-based adult basic and secondary education Strategy
  • Ged/hsed programs
  • Re-entry programs
Strong (second-highest tier) No
Drug courts Policy
  • Diversion programs
Strong (second-highest tier) No
Family treatment drug courts Strategy
  • Diversion programs
Proven (highest tier) No
Fines and fees reform Policy
  • Diversion programs
Promising (Third-highest tier) No
Juvenile diversion programs Strategy
  • Diversion programs
Strong (second-highest tier) No
Mentoring programs for delinquency Strategy
  • Mentoring, counseling, and case management
Proven (highest tier) No
Multisystemic therapy for juvenile offenders Strategy
  • Mentoring, counseling, and case management
Proven (highest tier) No
Rapid Employment and Development Initiative (READI) Program
  • Mentoring, counseling, and case management
  • Restorative justice programs
  • Transitional jobs
  • Work readiness training
Promising (Third-highest tier) No
Restorative justice programs Strategy
  • Restorative justice programs
Strong (second-highest tier) No
Roca Program
  • Mentoring, counseling, and case management
  • Restorative justice programs
  • Transitional jobs
  • Work readiness training
Promising (Third-highest tier) No
School-based prevention programs for aggressive and disruptive behavior Strategy
  • Child wellness programs
Proven (highest tier) No
School-based violence and bullying prevention programs Strategy
  • Child wellness programs
  • Mentoring, counseling, and case management
Proven (highest tier) No
School-wide positive behavioral interventions and supports Strategy
  • Child wellness programs
  • Teacher training and professional development
Proven (highest tier) No
Treatment for serious juvenile offenders Strategy
  • Mentoring, counseling, and case management
Proven (highest tier) No
Footnotes
  1. Western and Pettit, "Collateral Costs: Incarceration's Effect on Economic Mobility," Pew Charitable Trusts 2010
    https://www.pewtrusts.org/~/media/legacy/uploadedfiles/pcs_assets/2010/collateralcosts1pdf.pdf
  2. Western and Pettit, "Collateral Costs: Incarceration's Effect on Economic Mobility," Pew Charitable Trusts 2010
    https://www.pewtrusts.org/~/media/legacy/uploadedfiles/pcs_assets/2010/collateralcosts1pdf.pdf
  3. Western and Pettit, "Collateral Costs: Incarceration's Effect on Economic Mobility," Pew Charitable Trusts 2010
    https://www.pewtrusts.org/~/media/legacy/uploadedfiles/pcs_assets/2010/collateralcosts1pdf.pdf
  4. Del Toro, Lloyd, et al, "The Criminogenic and Psychological Effects of Police Stops on Adolescent Black and Latino Boys," Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 2019
    https://www.pnas.org/content/116/17/8261
  5. Western and Pettit, "Collateral Costs: Incarceration's Effect on Economic Mobility," Pew Charitable Trusts 2010
    https://www.pewtrusts.org/~/media/legacy/uploadedfiles/pcs_assets/2010/collateralcosts1pdf.pdf