Harvard Begins Study in Lincoln, Omaha, on Effects of Short-Term Incarceration |

A Nebraska nonprofit began approaching recently arrested people in Lancaster and Douglas counties last week to ask if they would participate in a new Harvard School of Law study investigating the effect of short-term incarceration on people’s lives.

Those who accepted had a 50% chance of being randomly selected for the “extra-luck group,” with their bail being paid by RISE, a local group that focuses on prison coping programs and support for reintegration.

The other half would stay in jail unless they found their own surety, as they would if there was no study.

Jim Greiner, director of Harvard Law School’s Access to Justice Lab, said the premise of the study was to determine if there is a population of people who could be safely released into the community before the court case.

“Does it produce better results for them? Does it produce better results for the whole community? said Greiner.

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To find a location to carry out the study, he said, they searched for areas without charitable bail funds already in place. This led them to choose courts in Lincoln and Omaha, in addition to Bexar County, Texas.

Greiner said RISE, their Nebraska partner, will have an employee do interviews at the prisons to tell arrestees about the study and ask if they are willing to participate.

April Faith-Slaker, one of the researchers and Nebraska alumnus, said she will be working with RISE, which will post bail for some defendants recently arrested for non-violent crimes, “for whom the lack of bail is the only thing that separates them and release from provisional imprisonment.

The research team will then compare a range of results for those who were bailed out by RISE to those who were not.

“At the end of the study, we will be able to measure the effects of temporary release on the processing of criminal cases, recidivism, employment, housing, family stability, physical and mental health and benefits. audiences, among others,” Faith-Slaker said.

Greiner said this is the same type of study, using empirical data, that the FDA requires to test new drugs before they are made available to consumers.

There have been previous studies comparing the consequences of various types of incarceration, but they have not taken into account that those who can post bail are fundamentally different from those who cannot, he said. -he declares.

Generally, those who can have stronger family ties and social networks.

This study takes those differences into account, he said. It is therefore a matter of comparing groups that resemble each other.

“The same, exempt for that one thing,” Greiner said.

He said they’re aiming for hundreds of participants over the next three years of enrollment, two years of follow-up surveys and several years of administrative data collection.

Greiner said to be patient. It won’t be a quick process.

“Studies like this take a long time to produce credible information,” he said.

This is just the latest study that Harvard has undertaken at the Access to Justice Lab, which researches the areas of civil and criminal access to justice with the goal of using empirical research to improve the functioning of the system. American judiciary for everyone.

Greiner, who has worked in the legal field for more than 30 years, said it was surprising to many people to know that the field of law is not an evidence-based field.

“The law usually puts the cart before the horse,” he said, unlike other fields, such as medicine.

Access to Justice’s goal is to change that — by studying things like the effect of implicit bias in juries, the effect of court date reminders in public defense cases, the prevention of homelessness through the diversion of evictions and the effect of short-term incarcerations — so he can bring scientific evidence to the conversation about potential reforms.

Denise W. Whigham