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Public Safety

The United States has the highest violent crime rate in the developed world. More than seven times as many Americans are murdered per year compared to citizens of peer nations in Western Europe and East Asia. Though crime has fallen over the course of the last several decades, America’s crime rates remain an outlier internationally and a recent spike has made the need for better public safety policies all the more urgent.

America primarily responds to crime with incarceration and correctional supervision. As a result, our country has the highest incarceration rate in the world. While these responses are important short-term tools to take dangerous people off the streets, their long-term successes as methods of rehabilitation have demonstrably failed.

Shockingly, correctional bureaucracies are entirely failing to deliver Americans the safety they deserve. Roughly seven in ten people reoffend within five years of release from prison. These burdensome and ineffective government bureaucracies exist with little accountability, innovation, or purpose.

To fix America’s criminal justice system, policymakers need to take the top-down, one-size-fits-all approach that typifies both current policies and most proposed reforms by experts and advocacy groups and turn it on its head.

Instead of relying on bureaucracy, policymakers should empower local leaders—probation chiefs, prison wardens, and officers—to use their first-hand knowledge of their communities to innovate unique approaches to rehabilitation and reward them for achieving better results than the status quo. Policies should energize the people working on the ground level of a system, give them ownership of their success, and allow their best ideas to flourish.

At the Cicero Institute, our aim is to equip policymakers with outcome-based solutions that encourage competition and innovation, inspire quality leadership, and ultimately strengthen our institutions from the bottom-up.

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