Every black male child born today has a 1 in 3 chance of spending time in prison. These statistics were provided by the Bureau of Justice Statistics in a press release dated August 17, 2003. The U.S. has the largest prison population in the world – 25% of the world’s prisoners but only 5% of its population. Today, 2.2 million Americans are in our prisons and jails.

And, given reports of 20-year sentences for non-violent, drug offenses, sentencing policies that disserve society need to be re-examined. For decades, the education and job training provided to inmates has inadequately prepared them to re-enter the workforce. To help break an insidious cycle of poverty and recidivism, we need to better educate and train inmates. We must summon the political and public will to reverse longstanding policies that have contributed to a boom in our prison population and that have failed to prepare offenders to return home and become productive members of society.

“Winning Strategies uses its influence to encourage larger, more well established employers to respond to the job development efforts of these workforce intermediaries.”

The Justice Working Group brings together experts in research, criminal justice, juvenile justice, youth development, education, and corrections to develop new strategies to increase educational and economic opportunity for incarcerated young men of color, and to reduce the disproportionate representation of youth of color in the juvenile justice system.

Expanding Educational and Vocational Opportunity for Incarcerated Young Men of Color
For many prisoners, time in jail or prison is nothing more than time lost. To change this grim reality, the Pipeline Crisis Justice Working Group is working to develop a blueprint for a milestone-oriented in-prison educational program that meets the incarcerated at their educational level – whatever it may be – accommodates prisoners’ movements through the system, and better prepares them for reentry into regular life. Each initiative being developed is directed at improving opportunities for the incarcerated and helping to break the cycle of recidivism. In addition to pursuing high-impact, implementable changes for inmates of traditional jails and prisons, on the Group’s agenda is the establishment of a correctional facility wholly committed to education, where the institutional mission is to have each incarcerated person learning at an appropriate level.

Stop and Think about Stop and Frisk
When it comes to analyzing the first stage of the justice system that young men confront – police contacts – there are sizable gaps in the research and policy-relevant literature. The police play a critical role in decision-making and are afforded considerable discretion, but little is known about the impacts of these decisions on the lives of young people of color. In its intensive, neighborhood-centric new study of “stop and frisk” strategies and their effect on the relationship between police and young men of color, the Justice Working Group will delve into the complex questions surrounding the controversial strategy. How does it shape minority youths’ perceptions of police? Of themselves? What benefits – and costs – might it have for residents of affected neighborhoods? Does this kind of policing make those who live with it more or less likely to report crime? Commissioning research from the Vera Institute of Justice, a nonpartisan research organization dedicated to improving justice and public safety, the Justice Working Group will gather data on the effects such an approach may have on the relationship between police and young men of color, and on the broader cost to individuals and communities when that relationship frays.