Providing nonpartisan policy analysis, consulting, and
research services to improve public safety throughout the nation.

Institutional Corrections

At CJI, we work with departments of corrections, sheriff’s departments, and jail administrators to assist in developing and implementing safe and efficient restrictive housing practices, implementing evidence-based programming, forecasting jail populations, and developing promotional exams for jail personnel. 

Corrections facts at a glance:

  • 2,227,500 adults in the United States were incarcerated in prisons or local jails on December 31, 2013.
  • Approximately 1 in 110 adults in America is incarcerated.  
  • Corrections populations have experienced a 500% increase over the past 40 years.  
  • The increase has slowed since 2000, and the most recent data indicate a downward trend. 
  • State corrections expenditures on institutional operations totaled $37.3 billion in 2010.  
  • 95% of all state inmates will return to the community
  • Recidivism rates are very high—according to a recent study, 68% of state inmates were arrested within 3 years of release, and 77% were arrested within 5 years of release.  Inmates released in 2005 in 23 states, 50% returned to prison within 3 years, and 55% returned to prison within 5 years.

To make system improvements to decrease population growth, control costs, reduce recidivism, and improve public safety, institutional corrections leaders must implement evidence-based practices and programming to ensure that inmates returning to the community are less likely to offend.

Examples of CJI’s work in this area include:

Reshaping Restrictive Housing in South Dakota

Restrictive housing of different forms (administrative, disciplinary, and protective housing) is used in prisons across the country to accomplish multi-faceted goals.  These include behavioral control, violence prevention, discipline, and inmate protection.  The practice typically involves separating inmates from those in general population, restricting contact with staff and inmates, and curtailing participation in activities including recreation, shared mealtimes, and other programming.  Restrictive housing is recognized as the most constitutionally restrictive environment within a prison, and it has recently been the focus of significant attention by politicians, courts, prison rights advocates, and journalists Restrictive housing has been on the rise in the past 2 decades, and experts estimate that approximately 2.7% of the corrections population are housed in restrictive housing in a state or federal prison on a given day  

CJI worked with the South Dakota Department of Corrections (SD DOC) to reshape the practices surrounding the use of restrictive housing.  This included:

  • Reviewing and assessing current practices and capacities;
  • Developing data-driven, alternative strategies to safely and effectively reduce restrictive housing bed days and reduce the safety risks posed by inmates during and after their time in restrictive housing;
  • Provide implementation support, technical assistance, and measure fidelity; and
  • Track performance measures

Working with nationally recognized experts in the areas of high security confinement, mental health, and evaluation, CJI and SD DOC developed strategies that fit local practices, policies, and conditions. 

Performance measures are being tracked to ensure that strategies have their intended effect, and preliminary results are promising.  Additionally, feedback from SD DOC leadership, line-level staff, and inmates has been positive.  The process of technical assistance and implementation, as well as early results from the reform were featured in a recent CJI report.

Prison and Jail Assessments 

CJI leads and coordinates a range of assessments for prisons and jails, including security and safety audits; restrictive housing policy and practice reviews; and general management, culture, and operations assessments. We have an ongoing partnership with Correctional Consulting Services, led by Larry E. Reid, and complement our staff with other expert consultants from across the country for subject matter expertise. Our consultants have all come up through the correctional ranks and have decades of experience managing a variety of prison operations and providing consulting services.

Jail Population Policy Impact Tool

Jail population management is an important fiscal consideration in local jurisdictions throughout the country.  The Jail Population Policy Impact Tool, developed by CJI, can provide local jail and county managers with valuable insight into the future costs of current policies and projected costs or savings from future policy changes. 

The Jail Population Policy Impact Tool is unique in that it:

  • Uses a jurisdiction’s own historical jail data and county population projections to dynamically estimate long term jail impact;
  • Can utilize up to ten policy areas to create individual population effects;
  • Can account for the timing of policy changes, permitting a staggering of effects that is more accurate to real-life implementation; and
  • Allows the user to make adjustments to the size of the population and the length of stay in jail based on specific offending populations.

With the Jail Population Policy Impact Tool, policy makers, budget writers and criminal justice leaders can make data-driven decisions that are more accurate and cost-effective.

Sheriff’s Department Promotional Exams

Staff selection for promotions are important decisions within correctional environments.  CJI designs, administers, and scores promotional exams for correctional officers applying to be sergeants, lieutenants, and captains at county-based jails in Massachusetts.  The scope of work includes:

  • Reviewing Sheriff’s Department policies and procedures to identify the subject matter for the exam;
  • Generating of questions and format of the exam;
  • Collaborating with representatives from the Sheriff’s Department to schedule the exam and prepares the announcements and postings pursuant to the required collective bargaining agreements;
  • Conducting study sessions at the jail to answer questions related to the exam;
  • Administering and proctoring the promotional exams, scoring the exams, and providing the individual scores as well as an analysis of the scores to the Superintendent and Sheriff;
  • Posting the scores at the jail, according to an assigned number, for viewing by the correctional officers; and
  • Providing feedback on individual results to interested candidates for improvement.

As the final test scores are a key part of the promotional decision, we are able to ensure to ensure objectivity in the creation of questions and scoring of exams.