Race and Policing
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Reforming the criminal justice system has become a bipartisan priority and a topic of intense public interest. Much of the focus is on reversing mass incarceration—lowering the numbers of people in prison and jail, creating constructive pathways for people returning to their communities, and addressing the stark racial and ethnic disparities that have been a primary feature of the American criminal justice system. This work remains essential: in the United States, half of all adults have an immediate family member who is or has been incarcerated. Moreover, black adults are 50 percent more likely than their white counterparts to have had an incarcerated immediate family member.But ending the practice of mass incarceration and repairing its extensive collateral consequences must begin by focusing on the front end of the system: police work. A police officer's encounter with a civilian, if it ends in custodial arrest, is where mass incarceration begins. And the enforcement numbers—most notably arrests—are staggering. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), as of 2017, some 70 million Americans had been arrested. If everyone with an arrest record held hands, they would circle the globe three times.
Collectively, the data represented in Arrest Trends, and the findings in this report, challenge the notion that America's reliance on enforcement is a necessary component to achieving oft-stated public safety goals -- or indeed, a means of achieving justice or equity. The launch of Arrest Trends marks Vera's most recent effort to reduce the criminal justice system's footprint -- by unlocking key policing data and, in doing so, elevating the narrative of overreliance on arrests and the need for viable alternatives. In this report, readers will find information about the need for greater access to policing data, and overview of the Arrest Trends tool as well as several initial findings gleaned from it, and future directions for this work.