Stop Giving Out Awards For Arrests

A recent Brennan Center report suggests reforming the Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) Program, which doles out money to states:

Current measures inadvertently incentivize unwise policy choices. Federal officials ask states to report the number of arrests, but not whether the crime rate dropped. They measure the amount of cocaine seized, but not whether arrestees were screened for drug addiction. They tally the number of cases prosecuted, but not whether prosecutors reduced the number of petty crime offenders sent to prison. In short, today’s JAG performance measures fail to show whether the programs it funds have achieved “success”: improving public safety without needless social costs.

Scott Lemieux wholeheartedly supports this idea:

Using the power of the purse to reduce incarceration rates would not necessarily find a hostile reception in state capitols. As the Prospect‘s Abby Rapoport reportede arlier this year, prison reform is not the sole province of the left. Several states controlled by conservative Republicans—including Texas and Kansas—have enacted salutary prison reforms. Indeed, state legislatures should consider using their own budgets to focus police and prosecutors on crime-reduction goals rather than rewarding incarceration as an end in itself.