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Many of the worst features of mass incarceration — such as racial disparities in prisons — can be traced back to policing. Our research shows that police disproportionately target Black and other marginalized people in stops, arrests, and use of force. We've also explored how police are misused to respond to problems unrelated to public safety, like mental health crises and homelessness.
Below is some of our key research on policing:
Diversion program" can refer to a wide variety of initiatives to keep people out of jail. We wrote one report that explains them all. Our report envisions the criminal justice process as a highway, with five major "exits" off the road to incarceration.
We explain the need to redirect dollars wasted on repeatedly jailing people - who are disproportionately Black, low-income, and have greater health needs - toward community based services that prevent justice-system involvement.
Women make up a growing share of arrests and report much more use of force than they did 20 years ago, with Black women most likely to be targeted.
We estimate that policing criminal law violations costs taxpayers over $63 billion each year.
We lay out questions to ask local leaders about law enforcement practices before green-lighting proposals for jail expansion. We also explain "best practices" to help local officials avoid unnecessary arrests and incarceration.
Our analysis of NYPD data on stop-and-frisk shows that the police used physical force in almost a quarter of stops — and that their use of force is also racially discriminatory.
- High stakes mistakes: How courts respond to “failure to appear”, by Brian Nam-Sonenstein, August 15, 2023
Research shows that while most people who miss court are not dangerous or evading justice, the way courts treat “failure to appear” may make our communities less safe.
- New data: Police use of force rising for Black, female, and older people; racial bias persists, by Leah Wang, December 22, 2022
New survey data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics on police interactions in 2019 and 2020 provide the broadest look at relations between people and police officers. The findings leave a lot to be desired (as they’re primarily pre-pandemic), but the message is clear: police are still a massive presence in our communities, and they don’t always provide the solutions and safety we need.
- Policing resource round-up: Where to find data, advocacy materials, and more information about American policing, by Emily Widra and Wendy Sawyer, August 28, 2020
A list of the most valuable online resources from organizations focused on policing.
- Not just "a few bad apples": U.S. police kill civilians at much higher rates than other countries, by Alexi Jones and Wendy Sawyer, June 5, 2020
Police violence is a systemic problem in the U.S., not simply incidental, and it happens on a scale far greater than other wealthy nations.
- Ten key facts about policing: Highlights from our work, by Wendy Sawyer, June 5, 2020
Police disproportionately target Black and other marginalized people in stops, arrests, and use of force; and are increasingly called upon to respond to problems, such as homelessness, that are unrelated to public safety.
- Police stops are still marred by racial discrimination, by Alexi Jones, October 12, 2018
National data shows that nearly 1 million people in the U.S. experience the threat or use of force by police in a given year — and they are disproportionately Black and Latinx.
- Police, courts, jails, and prisons all fail disabled people, by Elliot Oberholtzer, August 23, 2017
Disabled people represent a disproportionate number of those stopped, arrested, and killed by police, largely because we rely on militarized police forces to handle mental and physical health crises, and because many behaviors related to disability have been criminalized.
- Data confirms that police treat Black Americans with less respect, by Lucius Couloute, June 8, 2017
We discuss an analysis of police bodycam footage from nearly 1,000 vehicle stops.
- Seizing Chicago: Drug stings and asset forfeiture target the poor, by Alex Clark and Joshua Aiken, August 11, 2017
We explain how state and federal law enforcement practices target low-income, Black, and Latinx residents.
The justice system's unequal treatment of poor people hits people of color and women the hardest. Our research provides race and gender breakdowns in the criminal justice system.
Didn't find what you were looking for? See the Police and Policing section of our Research Library, a curated collection of over 200 academic and policy reports on the subject.