The first paper uses recently collected data from all CSWE-accredited MSW programs to evaluate the extent to which criminal background information is collected from applicants and how it is used to inform graduate admission's decisions. This innovative study, the first of its kind to our knowledge, sheds light on the prevalence of these graduate admissions practices and raises critical questions about their evidence for ensuring safety on campuses, as well as their incongruency with the profession's commitment to social justice and smart decarceration efforts. The second paper examines a broad set of reforms used to address collateral consequences resulting from laws and regulations that deny people with a felony from civic goods such as public housing, employment, Medicaid, voting and others. The study identified reform practices being used to address these collateral consequences (e.g., ban the box policies) and importantly, which policies are both evidence-informed and have political support and momentum among government officials. The study builds on our understanding of how to bridge research and practice so that law makers can implement policies that are most likely to be successful and based on empirical knowledge. The third and final paper does an in-depth examination of a set of state-level reforms intended to reduce the prison population in California due to overcrowding. Considered one of the largest decarceration efforts in U.S. history, this paper improves our understanding of how such reform efforts, while reducing incarceration rates, may unintentionally exacerbate racial, ethnic, and gender disparities in the criminal justice system.
Together, the papers illustrate the importance of using multiple perspectives, methods, and data sources to advance the empirical knowledge base about the evolving U.S. criminal justice reform policy landscape. In an era when reform practices and policies are increasingly being developed and implemented, it is imperative to ensure that these decarceration and related efforts are indeed smart and are backed by sound reasoning and evidence.