Joan Petersilia’s 5 Reason’s Prison Reduction Can Work

Posted on July 19, 2012 by


Joan Petersilia gives the keynote address at the 2012 NIJ conference as attendees look on. Image: CrimeDime

At the recent NIJ conference, Joan Petersilia served as the keynote speaker. Petersilia’s work is well known throughout the field, and her long experience as a criminologist makes her uniquely suited to comment on the issue of reducing incarceration.

Petersilia, who was given free reign in her discussion topic, contextualized the current move to reduce our reliance on incarceration as a primary criminal justice strategy. Having been through the ebb and flow of criminological fad before, she expressed her concern that we might just wind up repeating our mistakes of the past – namely, net-widening.

Yet Petersilia was fundamentally hopeful that we can approach the problem of getting sensible about incarceration with science and the promise of success.

Petersilia’s lecture was sophisticated, but boiled down, she gave five reasons this can work:

  1.  science has gotten better, more rigorous
  2. practitioners and researchers are working more closely together
  3. researchers are doing better, with general support for performance and evidence based work
  4. we have never closed prisons before, we have never been here before
  5. public opinion is with us

What do you think?


Posted in: Academia, Corrections