This lead might be of interest to those wondering what policies have been shown to reduce incarceration rates.
In 2005, when legislators in Washington State were getting worried by predictions about the soaring costs of looking after increasing numbers of prisoners, they tried something novel. Rather shock-jock-based policy, they invested in research to identify useful evidence to guide their decisions.
They asked the Washington State Institute for Public Policy to conduct a systematic review of cost-effective, evidence-based options to reduce the projected future demand for prison beds, to save taxpayers money, and to contribute to lower crime rates.
The reviewers identified 560 controlled evaluations of adult corrections, juvenile corrections, and prevention programs and concluded that if “Washington can successfully implement a moderate-to-aggressive portfolio of evidence-based options, then a significant level of future prison construction can be avoided, state and local taxpayers can save about two billion dollars, and net crime rates can be lowered slightly.”
While it’s still early days, Washington is far less likely than many other places in the US to incarcerate its citizens.
I don’t know how relevant the review’s recommendations might be for reducing incarceration of Aboriginal people but it does seem at least worth looking at.
I wonder whether any Australian governments have commissioned such a review and, if so, what they’ve done about its findings?
I interviewed the director of the Washington State Institute for Public Policy, Roxanne Lieb, a few years ago and some of her general comments about the difficulty of having evidence-based interventions implemented may be relevant to this particular issue.
She said that evidence-based recommendations were not always politically welcome or timely and could meet resistance from interest groups. “…decision making around funding is often driven by continuation of the status quo, the interests of constituents, and lobbying by service providers,” she says.
Which brings us back to Chris Graham’s piece. While we need to know what works, this isn’t enough. Political and public support (including prominent media coverage) is also needed.