Crime & Justice

There are many ways to measure the impacts of crime in the United States and also to assess the criminal justice system. Certainly, the criminal justice system plays a key role in reducing public health threats, especially problems resulting from alcohol and other drug use. Yet, crime imposes huge burdens on society in terms of economic costs and the physical and emotional toll on crime victims, their families, and communities. As well, impacts on offenders should be considered—frequently, youth who engage in criminal activity end up in a spiral of committing increasingly serious offenses followed by increasingly severe penalties. The U.S. incarceration rate is much higher than that of other industrialized countries—in 2012, 710 of every 100,000 U.S. residents were inmates in local, state, and federal prisons and jails. PIRE’s crime and justice research portfolio reflects the complexity and interrelatedness of these issues.

PIRE is a leader in research on legal structures and law enforcement to improve public safety and health. PIRE’s work in this arena is multifaceted, ranging from research on crime prevention and deterrence—such as our work on ignition interlocks and alcohol sensors to reduce driving under the influence—to research and evaluation of criminal justice programs to ensure that best practices are employed to prevent criminal activity, effectively rehabilitate incarcerated individuals, and reduce dangerous overcrowding in jails and prisons.

Other examples of PIRE’s work include:

  • Research and consultation on sentencing guidelines for DWI offenders
  • Evaluation of programs to prevent interpersonal violence, particularly domestic violence
  • Investigation of links between violence and availability of alcohol
  • Training and technical assistance to states and communities on the prevention of underage drinking and enforcement of alcohol laws
  • Development and evaluation of law enforcement strategies to reduce violations and improve public health and safety