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What Is Justice Reinvestment?

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  • Written By: Jan Fletcher
  • Edited By: Jessica Seminara
  • Last Modified Date: 06 September 2016
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Justice reinvestment is an approach to lessening the negative impacts of crime in a community through investment in human capital. This approach is in contrast to investing in infrastructure to contain criminal behavior. It is a method in which scientists gather and analyze empirical data, and then make recommendations to re-formulate existing measures to decrease crime. When a justice reinvestment program gets underway in a community, newly devised initiatives may subsequently be targeted less to incarceration and traditional punitive measures. In contrast, the emphasis is usually on addressing the underlying causes of criminal behavior.

Traditional approaches to community management of criminal behavior typically involve enacting punitive measures for offenders. These may include incarceration, assignments to public work crews, or placing an offender on probation. This last approach usually involves a probation officer supervising the offender through a series of scheduled in-person visits over a period of time.

These measures usually necessitate erecting and managing infrastructure, such as jails and prisons. In contrast, justice reinvestment programs are focused less on enacting punishment as a moral imperative and more on rehabilitating offenders through investments in education, counseling and other social support systems. Typically, the operating viewpoint in justice reinvestment programs is to decrease the cost of crime to society through acquiring and applying scientifically gathered data.

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In this approach, the political pressures that occur within a judicial system to punish an offender may be addressed through presenting proof of the actual efficacy of a particular crime-reduction initiative. The findings may be subsequently applied to changing crime-management methods. Often, the stated goal is to invest more pragmatically in human capital, through rehabilitating offenders. Advocates for this approach typically believe it will lessen the overall burden to society caused by criminal behavior.

Justice reinvestment programs generally operate on a pragmatic basis. This approach has similar goals held in common with traditional crime management methods, such as a more peaceful society that is not shackled by overriding fears of crime. This approach differs, however, in that measures undertaken to prevent and reduce crime are based more on scientifically-derived empirical evidence, and less on public opinion.

Traditional approaches to criminal behavior in a community have often been driven in part by grieving relatives, who want to see justice served. Criminal behavior frequently evokes strong emotions like fear and grief in those who have been victimized or fear becoming victims of criminals. As a result, it is common for politicians to affect crime reduction strategies, as they are confronted by the results of crime among their constituents. Pragmatism may be difficult to achieve in these circumstances. Justice reinvestment is thought by some to offer a logical, evidence-based framework that seeks to reduce the human toll of criminal activity, while compensating victims and providing a safer environment for citizens.

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