Public Policy Celebrates 20th Anniversary, Alumna of the Year Honored Jaime Nack ’02 is recognized for entrepreneurship, leadership and impact at UCLA and beyond

By Stan Paul

Since graduating its first class of 17 students in 1998, the Master of Public Policy program at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs has equipped nearly 900 more for careers in the public, private and nonprofit sectors.

The highly competitive MPP program that now admits about 70 students each year celebrated its second decade with alumni, faculty, staff, friends and family Sept. 22, 2018, at the UCLA Luskin Conference Center.

As part of the MPP program’s milestone anniversary, Jaime Nack MPP ’02 was named Alumna of the Year.

An entrepreneur and environmental consultant, Nack was a Luskin School Public Policy minor before pursuing her graduate degree. She credits UCLA with helping her meld her interests and foster her career.

“I always knew I wanted to focus on ‘impact’ and figuring out a way to effect change around the landscape around me, and public policy felt like the best place where I could actually explore those interests,” Nack said. “Whether it be transportation or housing or social welfare, all of the pieces that I was interested in my impact puzzle I found at Luskin, I found in public policy.”

Also during the celebration, five current students were given the UCLA Luskin MPP Alumni Fellowship Awards for outstanding leadership and service. The students, nominated by their classmates, were: Marissa Ayala, Robert Gamboa, Gabriela Solis, Caio Velasco and Erica Webster.

“A lot’s happened since many of you graduated,” Dean Gary Segura told the crowd, citing a list of accomplishments that included 19 new UCLA Luskin faculty hires, nine of whom are in Public Policy; the addition of new research centers; the launch of an undergraduate major in Public Affairs this fall; and, “more importantly, the training of a generation of MPPs who’ve gone off and made the world a better, cleaner, more just place to live.”

“We have impact on things that we care about,” such as climate change, water pollution, public education, health care, civil society and social inequality, Segura said. “All of these things are things that faculty at Luskin Public Policy work with students every day to understand, to explain, to search for solutions.”

On hand to celebrate two decades of growth and success was Public Policy chair JR DeShazo, who recalled his more than 20 years on the School’s faculty.

Despite the growth of the Public Policy community, “we need all the MPPs we can get in this day and age,” said DeShazo, who is also director of the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation.

“We share a common goal of creating a more just society and opportunities for all of its members,” he added. “We gather today because we are part of a community committed to strengthening our civil society, and we gather here today because we all know that our future depends on us investing in staying connected and supporting one another.”

Former Public Policy chairs including Mark Peterson and Michael Stoll attended the anniversary celebration.

“We have all watched the department and program grow from the excitement of the founding moment to become an institution of considerable reputation and influence,” Peterson said prior to the event. “You can see it in our graduates, where they go and what they do.”

Peterson added, “There is no better embodiment of that impact than Jaime Nack.”

Nurit Katz MPP ’08, who currently serves as UCLA’s chief sustainability officer and executive officer of facilities management, presented the Alumna of the Year Award to Nack, crediting her leadership in sustainability and climate issues nationally and internationally.

Nack’s accomplishments as an entrepreneur include founding Three Squares Inc., an environmental consulting firm, and serving as director of sustainability and greening operations for the 2008 and 2012 Democratic National Conventions, marking the first time the DNC took measures to reduce the events’ environmental impact on host cities. She also has served as a member of the National Women’s Business Council — an Obama Administration appointment — and is on UCLA’s Alumni Association Board of Directors. In 2011, Nack was named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum.

Nack described her career journey as “non-linear” but said she found a path to environmental consulting because it was a “perfect blend of policy, business and impact.”

“So the last 20 years have take me through the Arctic to the White House,” said Nack, who returned recently from an Arctic expedition sponsored by FutureTalks, and more recently served as head of sustainability for the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco.

“It’s been great to be a part of and play a role in some of those, but I definitely think that a big part of who I am comes from my experiences on campus with professors, with staff. I owe a debt of gratitude. … I can’t wait to see what the next 20 years brings for Luskin.”

View a Flickr album from the event.

 

A Showcase for Research by Urban Planning Students The annual Careers, Capstones & Conversations networking event highlights activities that welcome newly admitted students to UCLA Luskin Urban Planning and give them a preview of what the future holds. Public Policy and Social Welfare host their own Welcome Day events.

By Stan Paul

Britta McOmber wants to know “What’s the Dam Problem?” in terms of flood risk in California. Shine Ling wants to know “How Fair is Fair-Share” when it comes to housing law in California. Sabrina Kim asks, “Still No to Transit?” looking at areas in Los Angeles County that do not meet their full transit commuting potential.

Questions like these launched 36 research projects that brought together Master of Urban and Regional Planning (MURP) students with clients to produce research projects that address a specific planning issue. The second-year students, completing their required capstones, showcased their work at the annual Careers, Capstones & Conversations (CCC) networking event held April 5, 2018, at UCLA’s Covel Commons.

The event followed a day of welcoming activities for newly admitted UCLA Luskin Urban Planning students, who had the opportunity to view the projects and interact with current students, as well as faculty and staff.

Newly admitted student Bradley Bounds II said his interest in urban planning is local.

“I want to work on building up my community,” said the Compton resident. “I’m looking more toward open space projects; I’m looking for transportation projects and economic development,” said Bounds, who enthusiastically affirmed his intent to join the new Urban Planning class in fall 2018.

Project clients include governmental organizations, local agencies and cities, as well as private planning and design firms and nonprofit organizations concerned with regional, state and national urban issues.

Video highlights of the students practicing for CCC. [full size]

In addition to engaging titles, the projects — produced individually or in teams — include solid research and data that has been analyzed and put into context by the students. Topics included transportation, housing and social justice issues, including foster care in the region and environmental, resource conservation and energy challenges. At CCC, the students pitch and support their approaches via posters that frame the issues and their proposed solutions.

UCLA Luskin Urban Planning faculty, alumni and Luskin Senior Fellows were on hand to evaluate the projects displayed in Covel’s Grand Horizon Room.

McOmber, who has studied coastal cities and flood risk resulting from rising sea levels, as well as designated flood plains, said her project was inspired by last year’s Oroville Dam overflow incident in Northern California.

“There are quite a number of dams and large reservoirs in L.A. County,” said McOmber, explaining that, from the perspective of Oroville’s near disaster,  the state faces a broader problem of dam and water storage infrastructure that is aging, underfinanced and sometimes not well-maintained.

“I noticed that there really wasn’t any information on dam flood zones, so I thought that was an area that’s lacking in the academic field and also very relevant, not only for California, but I think more broadly for the country,” she said.

Her project also looked at who may be impacted based on factors such as income and education. For example, McOmber asked whether socially vulnerable households are more likely to live within dam flood zones in California. She found that almost 50 percent of households in these areas are Hispanic or Latino.

Presentation is an important aspect of the projects. Commenting on the eye-catching displays, Ananya Roy, professor of urban planning, social welfare and sociology, looked at how effectively information was conveyed, noting those that “made a very dramatic and legible point.”

In Public Policy and Social Welfare, newly accepted graduate students were welcomed at daylong events designed to introduce them to the School and provide information about topics such as program content and financial aid. They got a day-in-the-life experience at UCLA Luskin through lectures, breakout sessions, tours and informal social gatherings.

UCLA was the top choice for many of the students attending the April 3, 2018, Welcome Day for newly accepted students in UCLA Luskin Social Welfare who learned about topics such as public child welfare stipend programs and social welfare field education.

“I’ve already decided on UCLA,” said Nancy Salazar, who joined other admitted students for roundtable discussions with UCLA Luskin faculty. Salazar, who also has a master’s degree in public administration, said that in addition to a focus on social justice, she was attracted by the leadership aspect of the program.

For Guillermo Armenta Sanchez, UCLA was the only choice. “That’s the only one; that’s where I’m coming,” said the Long Beach resident who is interested in focusing on mental health.

At the Master of Public Policy (MPP) Welcome Day on April 9, 2018, J.R. DeShazo, department chair and professor of public policy, provided introductory comments and introduced faculty and staff to incoming students.

“At Luskin, you are making a commitment to mastering a very challenging set of policy tools,” said DeShazo, who also serves as director of the Luskin Center for Innovation, the state’s premier environmental policy research center.

DeShazo highlighted the outstanding faculty and research institutes across all three departments, then continued, “There are a tremendous number of extracurricular activities that we present to you. The challenge is a scheduling challenge: How do you take advantage of everything that we offer?”

The new cohort of policy students gathered at the School to participate in a number of informative activities that included an ice-breaking exercise and an inside look at student life and the strengths of the UCLA Luskin program as presented by a students-only panel.

An invitation to Professor Michael Stoll’s Methods of Policy Analysis course was included, as were a variety of student-led breakout sessions on policy areas such as education, criminal justice, the environment, international issues and transportation. The conversations continued into a lunch with members of the faculty.

DeShazo advised that the two-year graduate program goes quickly and that students are soon thinking about what’s next.

“One of the things we’re very committed to — alums are committed to, our office of career services is committed to — is providing you with the internship opportunities and the alumni connections that will help you get a great job coming out of our program,” DeShazo said. “You are invited to start to develop your CV, practice in your interviewing skills, your public speaking skills, honing and refining your networking skills.

DeShazo summed it up. “When it’s time to engage with prospective employers, you’re ready.”

 

Stoll Appointed Fellow of American Institutes for Research

Michael Stoll

Michael Stoll has been appointed a fellow of the American Institutes for Research (AIR), a behavioral and social science research and evaluation organization based in Washington, D.C. Stoll, professor of public policy and urban planning at UCLA Luskin, will add his expertise in areas including poverty, inequality, migration, and crime and mass incarceration to the not-for-profit organization founded in 1946. AIR brings together a distinguished group of U.S. academics and experts in a wide range of fields. “I join AIR with an institute fellow class that includes Claude Steele (UC Berkeley), Marta Tienda (Princeton), Harry Holzer (Georgetown), Camille Charles (Penn) and David Hayes-Bautista (UCLA Medicine ),” he said. Stoll’s past work has included examination of the role in limiting employment opportunities played by racial residential segregation, job location patterns, job skill demands, employer discrimination, job competition, transportation, job information and criminal records. He also serves as a fellow at the Brookings Institution, the Institute for Research on Poverty at University of Wisconsin and the National Poverty Center at the University of Michigan, and is a past visiting scholar at the Russell Sage Foundation. The former chair of UCLA Public Policy said he expects his assignments as an AIR fellow will include serving as expert thought-partner on critical AIR projects, providing mentorship to AIR research staff, presenting seminars and developing internal conferences, as well as serving as quality assurance reviewer on high-profile reports. — Stan Paul

A Reflection on 30+ Years at UCLA As he prepares to retire, Maciek Kolodziejczak looks back at a memorable 20 years as director of student services in the Department of Public Policy

By Maciek Kolodziejczak

“A reflection? Who has time to reflect? There are too many tasks at hand, emails to answer, pending projects, deadlines to meet, obligations to fulfill, really … who has time for reflection?”

This is just a snippet of my knee-jerk inner dialogue when I was asked to write something to coincide with my retirement.

I do not want to belittle diligence, persistence and initiative, but too often, in my case, reflection and appreciation are short-changed by the relentless pursuit of tasks, responsibilities, email replies and deadlines that voraciously consume my time.

I used to have a comic posted on my door, which stated “I email, therefore I am.” It may be funny, but it also contains more than a grain of truth. I am writing this post in an academic environment replete with intense endeavor to provide for the public good and to ensure justice and equity.

Nevertheless, I am always reminded of a mentor’s observation that “we are human beings not human doings.” Maintaining the former has been my professional challenge. “Doing” without reflection is just egotism — even if it is for a noble cause. Consequently, I appreciate this time to reflect on my years at the Luskin School.

Maciek Slides Into Retirement

In recent months I have been asked about my accomplishments. I wince at the question because I really don’t think in these terms. This is not false modesty. Achievements are measurable and quantifiable. Our MPP students are taught rigorous analytic skills to formulate evidence-based policy. However, as I consider my “accomplishments,” I need to acknowledge that my professional successes have been built on the shoulders of those before me, and on the generous collaboration and support of colleagues around me. Consequently, I claim my effort and diligence but take more pride in my aspirations rather than achievements.

The collective mission and aspirations of the Luskin School’s three departments are what drew me here and what have made my tenure here so fulfilling and gratifying. Although I enjoyed my previous work at the UCLA Career Center, I particularly appreciated the undergrads that I was referring to urban planning and social welfare.

I facilitated workshops on careers in urban planning and participated in several career fairs host by the School of Social Welfare in the early 1990s. I first heard of a Master of Public Policy (MPP) when I met a UCLA alum who completed his MPP degree at the University of Chicago. Initially I thought that it was an applied political science degree. It wasn’t until I came to the Luskin School (then called the School of Public Policy and Social Research), that I came to fully appreciate the rigorous analytic curriculum taught in the MPP degree program and its talented and dedicated students.

Becoming familiar with their courses, assignments, Applied Policy Projects and absurdly busy schedules, I gained an unwavering respect for the valuable work they generate. Yet, even more so than their scholastic excellence, I came to appreciate their aspirations, which are reflected in their academics, but also in the various service and leadership activities they pursue.

I began my career at the Luskin School along with its then-new Dean Barbara Nelson, whose vision of the new school emphasized solving problems across boundaries, particularly at the growing intersection of the public, private and nonprofit sectors. She also framed this vision of working across boundaries of various types whether demographic, national or organizational.

Her successor, Dean Frank Gilliam, expanded this notion with an emphasis on social justice and diversity, which is reflected in his legacy, the D3 Initiative. D3 aims to create a cohesive strategy to bridge differences, understand our diverse society and confront disparities in the field of public affairs. I could not be prouder to be working in an environment in which students, faculty and staff embrace these ideals and aspirations. I am equally confident that Dean Gary Segura’s leadership and vision will continue to champion these values.

Beyond the visionary deans who led the School these past 20 plus years, I have been blessed with the dedicated and innovative leadership of three remarkable Department Chairs: Arleen Leibowitz, Mark Peterson and Michael Stoll. I appreciate their patience, wisdom and understanding.

I have been equally fortunate in having the most collaborative and supportive colleagues with Ken Roehrs and Ronke Epps in the beginning, succeeded by Kyna Williams, Nancy Jensen, Dan Oyenoki, Stacey Hirose and, most recently, Sean Campbell and Ervin Huang. You have been a pleasure to work with and made my days here not only productive but also fun and enjoyable. I will stop here because to name all my colleagues for whom I am grateful, this post will become my “One Hundred Years of Gratitude” novel. Suffice to say that the outcome of my reflection on these past 20 years has created a profound gratitude for all the individuals with whom I have worked, collaborated, assisted and who helped me in my endeavors.

Finally, I am so very grateful for the MPP students and alumni. It has truly been an honor to be their adviser. Their presence has given me more than they can imagine. Every year in my parting email to the graduating students I express a version of the following sentiment:

“Although your achievements and accomplishments are noteworthy, I admire you as individuals; the values you embrace, the hopes and dreams for which you strive, and the way you confront the challenges that you face. Your aspirations are a more genuine measure of your character than what you achieve, and for me a source of hope and encouragement about our future.”

As our students commence their professional careers, I am heartened by their determination to solve the many problems facing our world today and the many sacrifices they make in following these pursuits.

In conclusion, I would like to address a major financial sacrifice our students make in completing their degree. Since I began working here at the Luskin School, tuition has increased 460 percent from $4,366/$13,394 (CA Resident/Non-Resident) in 1996-97 to $24,439/$37,221 in 2016-17. I take every opportunity I have to draw attention to the spiraling cost of education and subsequent alarming student debt. So I am particularly honored in having a fellowship named in my honor. It will provide some vital financial relief to our MPP students.

I am humbled by the generosity of the MPP alumni, my friends and colleagues for their considerable donations to this fellowship fund and cannot think of a better way to reward the diligent work and to honor the aspirations of our students.

***

Maciek Kolodziejczak is retiring in June after serving as director of student services for the Department of Public Policy at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs for the past 20 years. To make a gift to the Maciek Kolodziejczak Fellowship Fund, go here.

In Pursuit of Misdemeanor Justice UCLA Luskin researchers selected for nationwide Research Network on Misdemeanor Justice will focus on Los Angeles

UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs researchers have been selected to join the Research Network on Misdemeanor Justice based at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York.

Michael Stoll, professor of public policy and urban planning, and colleague Michael Lens, assistant professor of urban planning at the Luskin School, will lead research efforts focused on policing patterns related to misdemeanors in the city of Los Angeles. Six sites were selected by the Research Network based on proposals submitted from 39 institutions across the United States.

The Research Network on Misdemeanor Justice at John Jay College of Criminal Justice on Feb. 16, 2017, announced the six sites — Los Angeles; Toledo, Ohio; Durham, N.C.; Seattle, Wash.; Prince George’s County, Md.; and St. Louis, Mo. — selected to join New York City as part of the network. The core sites will use data analytics to inform policy discussions and reforms regarding trends in the enforcement of lower-level offenses. Through a generous $3.25-million, three-year grant from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation (LJAF), the Research Network builds upon the success of the Misdemeanor Justice Project in New York City.

“We are excited to work with the core sites and to help inform their policy decisions on critical issues regarding the role of the criminal justice system in responding to low-level misconduct,” said John Jay College President Jeremy Travis.

The Research Network is a national alliance of seven jurisdictions that will examine trends in the enforcement and disposition of lower-level offenses at a local level and, for the first time, at a cross-jurisdictional level. The Research Network, working with research institutions, data partners and stakeholders, aims to build data infrastructure at a local level. The Network also seeks to inform smarter criminal justice policies that enhance public safety, increase public trust in the police and implement fiscally responsible policies, particularly surrounding behaviors that involve officer discretion.

Stoll and Lens will partner with the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) to study data from stops and arrests over time and across different precincts. The data will be used to help them identify possible “misdemeanor hot spots” where diversion programs could be more effective.

“The larger good in studying policing related to low-level offenses will be to figure out how the LAPD can police smarter and more effectively,” Stoll said. He added that there is evidence that individuals involved in multiple misdemeanor offenses have a high probability to go on to commit a felony offense, and that intervention and diversion at the misdemeanor level can be effective in reducing felony offenses.

In looking at misdemeanors and police intervention over time, Stoll and Lens hope to build a network in Los Angeles supportive of this effort. This includes partnering with the city attorney, nonprofit organizations and diversion programs.

The selection criteria for the six sites included a commitment toward evidence-based reform in their local jurisdiction and the availability of high quality administrative data on arrests for lower level offenses, summonses, pedestrian stops and case outcome data that includes pretrial detention. The Research Network received 39 proposals. The research partners are UCLA, University of Toledo, North Carolina Central University, Seattle University, University of Maryland and University of Missouri—St. Louis.

“To see the work of the Misdemeanor Justice Project expand from New York City to six other jurisdictions is very exciting,” said professor Preeti Chauhan, the principal investigator of Research Network. “We are looking forward to replicating the New York model to these sites and believe the results will guide smarter criminal justice reform.”

Enforcement of lower-level offenses has a profound impact on the criminal justice system. It can overwhelm the courts and delay case processing, often resulting in large numbers of individuals held on pretrial detention. High-volume activity serves as the basis of public opinion about police and the legitimacy of the criminal justice system. The Research Network works with criminal justice stakeholders to obtain accurate data, provide objective analyses and disseminate findings to key stakeholders in the community, renowned scholars and policymakers to spur a national dialogue.

 

 

Luskin Professor’s Research Cited by White House Obama’s incarceration reform project includes studies by professor Michael Stoll

By Stan Paul

Michael Stoll

Michael Stoll

Research on incarceration in the United States by UCLA Luskin Public Policy professor Michael Stoll figures prominently in a newly released report on criminal justice reform by the White House Council of Economic Advisors (CEA).

Much of the report’s introductory material focuses on Stoll’s research about the skyrocketing level of incarceration in the U.S. and its rapid increase since the 1980s. It also cites data about the disproportionate ratio of African Americans and Hispanics behind bars — more than 50 percent of the prison population nationally. A White House presentation and panel discussion outlined the problems, as well as the economic and social costs of incarceration.

“Our research on incarceration growth, which quintupled from the 1980s to the present, demonstrates that 90 percent of the growth was driven by changes in criminal justice policy and not by increases in criminal behavior,” Stoll said. “The policy changes that drove the increases were to get more punitive in sentencing — with longer sentences, especially for more violent crimes — and to imprison those who commit less violent crime, such as drug possession, when in the past we did not.”

Today more than 2 million Americans are incarcerated — the largest prison population worldwide — amid data showing declining crime rates. Stoll and longtime colleague and collaborator Stephen Raphael of UC Berkeley attribute both the lengthening of sentences and the tripling of prison admissions for drug crimes as being significant contributors to the high number of inmates over the past several decades. The CEA analysis cites, among other sources, Raphael and Stoll’s 2013 report “Why Are So Many Americans in Prison?” (Russell Sage Foundation). In addition, their research shows that during this time the length of time served in prison has also increased substantially.

“President Obama is pursuing criminal justice reform currently and the report is being used in a variety of ways to justify some of these efforts,” said Stoll, who also co-edited with Raphael the 2006 book “Do Prisons Make Us Safer?” (Russell Sage Foundation).

“We believe that the first step to creating a more fair system is to roll back the tough sentencing reforms, such as truth in sentencing and minimum mandatory sentencing as well as habitual offender laws,” said Stoll, pointing out that the research also shows that this can be done without appreciably harming public safety.

In conjunction with the CEA report, “Economic Perspectives on Incarceration and the Criminal Justice System,” the U.S. Department of Justice has designated the week of April 24-30 as National Reentry Week “to highlight how strong reentry programs can make communities safer,” Obama said.

Although the president announced that the new CEA report details the economic costs associated with the incarceration rate in the U.S., he also recognized that each year more than 600,000 inmates are released.

“Good people from both sides of the aisle and across all sectors are coming together on this issue,” Obama said on April 25. “From businesses that are changing their hiring practices, to law enforcement that’s improving community policing, we’re seeing change.”[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]We believe that the first step to creating a more fair system is to roll back the tough sentencing reforms[/pullquote]

Stoll said this is true. “For very different reasons, at the state and federal levels, some liberals and conservatives are in some agreement that criminal justice reform should take place because of the high financial and social cost of maintaining a large prison system without appreciable public safety gains.”

Consequently, said Stoll, “There is a unique political window of opportunity to get some real reform done.” As an example, Stoll said, sentencing reforms at the federal level have reversed punitive sentences for less-violent drug offenders. At the state level in California, less harsh sentencing guidelines were recently implemented for nonviolent offenders.

For Stoll, the real hurdle will be getting an agreement across the political spectrum regarding sentences for those charged with more violent offenses.

“The problem, politically, is that it takes just one heinous violent act committed by someone released early from prison, or when punitive sentences are reversed, to sour elected officials and the public from making these smart criminal justice reforms,” Stoll said.

Michael A. Stoll

Michael A. Stoll is Professor of Public Policy in the Luskin School of Public Affairs at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). He serves as a Fellow at the American Institutes for Research, the Brookings Institution, the Institute for Research on Poverty at University of Wisconsin, Madison, and the National Poverty Center at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and served as a past Visiting Scholar at the Russell Sage Foundation.

Dr. Stoll’s published work explores questions of poverty, labor markets, migration, and crime. His past work includes an examination of the labor market difficulties of less-skilled workers, in particular the role that racial residential segregation, job location patterns, job skill demands, employer discrimination, job competition, transportation, job information and criminal records play in limiting employment opportunities.

His recent work examines the labor market consequences of mass incarceration and the benefits and costs of the prison boom. A recently completed book, Why Are so Many Americans in Prison, explores the causes of the American prison boom and what to do about it to insure both low crime and incarceration rates.

Much of his work has been featured in a variety of media outlets including NPR, PBS, the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, The Economist, Chicago Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle, and Washington Post, ABC, NBC, CBS, Univision, among other outlets.  He also regularly advises the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services and Labor, as well as for state and local governments in various capacities.

Prof. Stoll received his Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and a B.S. from the University of California, Berkeley.

RECENT BOOKS

 

SELECTED BOOKS & PUBLICATIONS

Why are So Many Americans in Prison? jointly authored with Steven Raphael, New York, NY: Russell Sage Foundation, 2013.

Do Prisons Make Us Safer? The Benefits and Costs of the Prison Boom
edited with Steven Raphael, New York, NY: Russell Sage Foundation, 2009

Barriers to Reentry? The Labor Market for Released Prisoners in Post-Industrial America edited with David Weiman and Shawn Bushway, New York, NY: Russell Sage Foundation, 2007 (Selected as a Noteworthy Book in Industrial Relations by Princeton University’s Industrial Relations Section.)

Behind America’s Incarceration Boom

By Stan Paul

Why are so many Americans in prison?

This is the question asked in the title of a recently published book by the policy scholars Michael Stoll and Steven Raphael. They discussed the question this past week at a lunchtime talk hosted UCLA Luskin’s Department of Public Policy.

Stoll, professor and chair of the department, and co-author Steven Raphael, professor of public policy at UC Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy, said that while asking the question seems obvious, getting to the question took a long time.

Arriving at the question posed in the title involved getting past myths such as the deinstitutionalization of the mentally ill between the 1950s and 1970s, or the introduction of crack into Americas cities and its supposed related effects on crime.

And, while “race does matter,” Stoll said, citing the disproportionately high incarceration rate of African American males, “this is an American problem and requires an American solution,” pointing out that the U.S. incarceration rate is “unparalleled” (more than 700 per 100,000) compared to Europe and the rest of the world.

Stoll and Raphael, who are longtime research collaborators, looked closely at the reasons why the incarceration rate has soared over the past decades into the millions nationwide, despite historically low rates in crime. Wading through all the popular conclusions and other factors that do not explain why incarceration has gone up so rapidly, their research pointed to political choices.

The bottom line for Stoll and Raphael is that since the 1980s, this increase is “attributable to changes in sentencing policy,” which has resulted in longer sentences, for example. New sentencing guidelines, “get tough on crime” policies and other politically driven efforts to address crime have only compounded the problem, pushing the system to the point where the costs of maintaining such a high incarceration rate begin to outweigh the benefits.

In their book, published by the Russell Sage Foundation, Stoll and Raphael explore alternatives aimed at reducing this incarceration trend.

The entire discussion is available for view on UCLA Luskin’s iTunes U channel.

Crime Forum Opens in Washington DC: Judge Alm Delivers on HOPE Rosenfield Forum brings together researchers to discuss methods of crime reduction

WASHINGTON, DC—Addressing the record incarceration rates across the U.S. and the boom in the prison population, the UCLA School of Public Affairs launched the first in a series of public discussions on critical national issues with the opening dinner of the Rosenfield Forums at the National Press Club in Washington DC.

“The Rosenfield Forums are an opportunity to bring together some of the country’s best thinkers, practitioners, advocates, policy makers, and other stakeholders,” says Dean Franklin D. Gilliam, Jr., “This week’s particular event focuses on encouraging all of us to think a little differently about how we reduce crime in the United States. This is an important and deeply corrosive phenomenon: it corrodes the public space, it corrodes our young people, and it crowds our prisons. Much of the worlds of crime and punishment are artificially constructed around these two poles—too much crime and too much incarceration. What you’ll see in this event is scholars grappling with the complexities of these issues, and presenting some elegant solutions—elegant in both simplicity and power.”

The inaugural forum, “Escaping the Prison Trap: How to Have Less Crime and Less Incarceration,” featured a keynote address on October 7 by the Honorable Steve S. Alm of the Hawaii State Judiciary. Alm is the creator of Project HOPE (Hawaii’s Opportunity and Probation and Enforcement), an innovative crime reduction program for drug offenses that has had dramatic success rates. Judge Alm described a frustrating sentencing and incarceration system that amounted to little more than a revolving door for minor drug offenders to move in and out of the judicial system.

“I can send them to the beach, or send them to prison—it’s crazy that these were the only options.” After gaining cooperation from several agencies, including the probation department, the sheriffs and U.S. marshals, Judge Alm created a systematic approach in which offenders were given instructions for calling a telephone hotline to see if they were selected that day for random drug testing. If they tested positive for drugs, they are arrested on the spot and brought up for a hearing within two days. “Swift and certain consequence is the key.” Says Alm, “If probationers know there will be caught and punished, they will not violate. Probation officers are pleased with the results, because clients were showing up to their appointments, and showing up sober.”

The program has had remarkable success in Hawaii (up to a 50% drop in repeat offenses among drug probationers); has been replicated by other judges; and has become the focus of research by UCLA Public Policy Professor Mark Kleiman and Pepperdine University Public Policy Professor Angela Hawken. The Department of Justice has funded a program to introduce the program to other jurisdictions across the country.

The Rosenfield Forums continue on October 8 at the Rayburn Building on Capital Hill with panel discussions on: reducing juvenile crime and incarceration, led by Associate Professor Laura Abrams of the Department of Social Welfare; the consequences of mass incarceration, led by Professor Michael Stoll of the Department of Public Policy; and getting more crime control with less punishment, led by Professor Mark Kleiman of the Department of Public Policy.