In a Diversion and Rehabilitation course I’m currently teaching, we recently compared and contrasted Martinson’s “Nothing Works” doctrine with the more recent “What Works” approach that’s steadily gaining traction in the criminal justice system. It was incredibly rewarding to see students grasping the power and promise of research-based crime reduction approaches, as opposed to the outdated notions of mass incarceration and the just deserts philosophy that had predominated over the last couple of decades.
Coincidentally, I also read Dylan Matthews’ post yesterday that summarized twelve strategies currently being used to reduce crime and violence around the country. It’s a must-read for anyone who’s interested in the diversity of ways we can effectively deal with crime in our communities. Conspicuously absent from the list are the typical calls for longer prison sentences and harsher treatment of offenders that had been offered up as the best approach in the past. Instead, systemic and data-driven interventions, such as lead abatement, early education, hot-spot policing, and providing training and support to parents are emphasized.
Further research on each of these is certainly warranted, but they all hold the promise for a more peaceful, safer society. It’s time to move the balance of our crime reduction efforts more toward prevention, which is cheaper, safer, and simply better for society as a whole.