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Truth and Integrity in State Budgeting: What Is the Reality?

November 2017

Contributors: Shaun Edwards and Keegan Smith

This report examines and grades the budgeting and transparency practices of all 50 U.S. states. It highlights states with the most effective procedures and those that fall short, while outlining best practices in each assessment category.

This multi-year study assess the quality of states’ budgeting practices, including public worker retirement funding and disclosure of budgetary and other critical fiscal data. This work lays the groundwork for governors, legislators, civic organizations, and citizens concerned about fiscal stewardship to effect meaningful improvements in the quality and transparency of state budgets in a time of fiscal stress for many governments.

ISLG is one of several partners that worked with the Volcker Alliance to put together this report. Working with students at the City University of New York’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice, ISLG analyzed the budgeting practices of 10 states: Indiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin.

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Less Is More: How Reducing Probation Populations Can Improve Outcomes

August 2017

Authors: Michael P. Jacobson, Vincent Schiraldi, Reagan Daly, and Emily Hotez

In this report, the authors discuss the consequences of the tremendous growth in probation supervision over the past several decades in the United States and argue that the number of people on probation supervision needs to be significantly downsized.

The authors find that probation has often not served as an alternative to incarceration, but rather as a key driver of mass incarceration in the United States. Despite the large numbers of individuals under supervision, probation is the most underfunded of agencies within the criminal justice system. This leaves those under supervision, often an impoverished population, with the responsibility of paying for probation supervision fees, court costs, urinalysis tests, and electronic monitoring fees among a plethora of other fines. These financial obligations have incredibly detrimental implications on the mental and economic state of those under supervision and is argued to be an unjust and ineffective public policy.

The authors argue that while the number of people on probation supervision in the U.S. has declined over the past several years (as have the number of people incarcerated and crime rates), that decline should not only be sustained but significantly increased, with a goal of reducing the number of people under probation supervision by 50 percent over 10 years. The authors discuss New York City as an example of a jurisdiction that has successfully done this.

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Equality Indicators Annual Report 2016

November 2016

Authors: Victoria Lawson, Jocelyn Drummond, Qian Zhang, Julia Bowling, Bijan Kimiagar, Shawnda Chapman Brown, & Margaret Michaels

The Equality Indicators team developed 96 indicators to measure progress towards equality across six thematic areas: Economy, Education, Health, Housing, Justice, and Services. Within each theme, there are four specific topics. For example, within Education, the topics include equality in early education, elementary and middle school education, high school education, and higher education. Finally, within each topic, there are four unique indicators.

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A New Look at Inequality: Introducing and Testing a Cross-Sectional Equality Measurement Framework in New York City

April 2016

Authors:  Besiki Kutateladze & Victoria Lawson

Inequality is a characteristic of societies worldwide, and many groups face disparities across a range of domains from economy to health to justice. While inequality is a complex problem in which many of these domains are interconnected, most research examines only one area, or at most the effect of one area on another. This paper details an innovative approach to studying inequality using an indicators methodology. The Equality Indicators are comprised of 96 measures of inequality and how it changes annually across six themes: Economy, Education, Health, Housing, Justice, and Services. It compares the experiences of those most likely to be adversely affected by inequalities to those of less disadvantaged groups. Here, we detail the development of the tool, its structure, data sources, and scoring system, followed by baseline findings from New York City, where we combined administrative and secondary public survey data with the data from a new public survey conducted for this study. We found substantial inequalities across all six themes, although they were most pronounced in Health and Justice. While we are not able to make direct comparisons of indicators in a given year, the intention of the tool is to track change over time; in future years we will be able to compare change or lack thereof across indicators and domains. The current findings across areas, however, suggest that New York City is characterized by vast inequalities, where disadvantaged groups are twice as likely as others to experience negative outcomes in fundamental areas of life.

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Equalty Indicators Baseline Date for Measuring Change Toward Greater Equality in New York City

Equality Indicators: Baseline Date for Measuring Change Toward Greater Equality in New York City

September 2015

Authors: Victoria Lawson, Qian Zhang, Shawnda Chapman Brown, & Besiki Kutateladze

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Does Evidence Really Matter? An Exploratory Analysis of the Role of Evidence in Plea Bargaining in Felony Drug Cases

The majority of cases in the United States are disposed of through plea bargaining; however, this important discretionary point has received relatively little attention from researchers compared with trial and jury proceedings, and other discretionary points such as arrest and sentencing. Additionally, although evidence is considered an important factor in determining case outcomes, its influence on prosecutors’ decisions regarding plea offers is less clear. In this study, we examined the potential impact of evidentiary factors, as well as other legal and extralegal factors, on two plea bargaining decisions, plea-to-a-lesser-charge offers and sentence offers, using data on felony drug cases processed by the New York County District Attorney’s office. We found that prosecutors made more punitive charge offers when they had audio/video evidence, eyewitness identification(s), prerecorded buy money used by an undercover officer in a buy-and-bust operation, or had recovered currency. Of all evidence factors analyzed, only the recovery of currency predicted sentence offers. By contrast, three other factors—defendants’ detention status, the presence of multiple plea offers, and prior prison sentence—had a much greater impact on charge and sentence offers. Although additional research is needed, it is possible that evidence has a greater impact at the initial stages of a case, particularly on the decision about whether to accept a case for prosecution, than it does on subsequent prosecutorial decisions.

Authors: Besiki L. Kutateladze, Victoria Z. Lawson, & Nancy R. Andiloro

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Why, What and How to Measure? A User’s Guide to Measuring Rule of Law, Justice and Security Programmes

This monitoring and evaluation guide is intended to improve the effectiveness of UNDP’s rule of law programming with a view to implement UNDP’s Strategic Plan. This is the first guide that focuses specifically on the measurement of UNDP’s rule of law programs and projects across the spectrum of development settings, including conflict-affected and fragile environments.

Authors: Besiki Kutateladze and Jim Parsons

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