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Title: PARTNERS IN CRIME: Nonprofits’ Promising Approach to Mass Incarceration Reform
Authors: Pingue, Danielle
Advisors: Perry, Imani
Department: Woodrow Wilson School
Class Year: 2013
Abstract: The United States boasts the highest rate of incarceration in the world. Over 2 million people are currently confined to jail or prison in the country. This alone is alarming, however when combined with observations of who is incarcerated, it becomes clear that mass incarceration is a racialized phenomenon. Although quantitative studies have established that Blacks and whites commit crimes at similar levels, African Americans are disproportionately arrested and convicted to prisons and jails in the United States (Thernstrom, 1999). Moreover, African Americans suffer from numerous collateral consequences brought on by asymmetrical contact with the criminal justice system. These penalties range from lower levels of electoral participation to a lack of trust in the police and an increased probability that Black youths will be imprisoned at higher rates than they will attend school. For decades, a host of organizations have sought to reverse the trend of mass incarceration. This thesis provides an analysis of the existence of entities within the nonprofit sector that are at the vanguard of addressing the issue. Three such organizations are the Sentencing Project, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Racial Justice Project, and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund (LDF). Nonprofits represent a promising avenue for mass incarceration reform because the sector consists of well-structured organizations whose primary goal is to address social problems, not to secure a profit or serve constituents like the for-profit or government arenas. Using interviews, records of the organizations’ lobbying efforts, public statements to federal and state agencies, newspaper articles, and testimonials from government officials regarding their importance, this work gleaned information on each of the three nonprofits that are examined. These records detail the organizations’ holistic approach to eliminating mass incarceration and creative thinking on issues including drug sentencing, the death penalty, prisoner re-entry, the school-to-prison pipeline, and prison practices as avenues for accomplishing this goal. In addition to documenting how nonprofits are meeting the challenges caused by the phenomenon of mass incarceration, this paper provides a policy analysis of their approach at the federal level as well as New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and California. The finding that the phenomenon scholar Derrick Bell terms “interest convergence” exists between nonprofits and government is an important step in establishing nonprofits’ potential to contribute positively to mass incarceration reform. However, this thesis also identifies three challenges to the implementation of nonprofits’ ideas. Although the difficulty of building political capital, declining citizen investment in community organizations, and the structure of many nonprofits are serious impediments, this work concludes that the sector nevertheless represents an important and promising avenue for reform. The findings of this thesis suggest three ways to improve the promise of nonprofits in the area of mass incarceration reform. These recommendations are to build strategic alliances and develop creative, targeted reforms to increase political capital; increase community understanding of the values and goals of the nonprofit as a way to mitigate the challenge of decreased levels of community investment; and to recognize the types of pressures that may arise from the organizational structure of the nonprofit as a way to deal with managerial ‘tides.’
Extent: 113 pages
Access Restrictions: Walk-in Access. This thesis can only be viewed on computer terminals at the Mudd Manuscript Library.
Type of Material: Princeton University Senior Theses
Language: en_US
Appears in Collections:Woodrow Wilson School, 1929-2017

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