Findings from the Rural Jails Research and Policy Network in Georgia and Washington

Legal Firearm Sales at State Level and Rates of Violent Crime, Property Crime, and Homicides

Justice Reinvestment Initiative in Minnesota: Improving Supervision Investments and Outcomes


Exploring the Relationship between Student Loan Forgiveness, the Pell Bonus, and Race

Digital Tools for Real-Time Data Collection in Education


The Impact of Professional Sports Franchises and Venues on Local Economies: A Comprehensive Survey

Renewable Fuel Standard: Actions Needed to Improve Decision-Making in the Small Refinery Exemption Program


Demographic Variation in Health Insurance Coverage: United States, 2021

Lessons Learned from the COVID-19 Outbreak: Preventing and Managing Future Pandemics

The Value of Communication for Mental Health

November 11, 2022


These two research briefs summarize analysis of county jail bookings in seven rural Georgia counties (2019–2020) and five rural Washington counties (2015–2021). In both Georgia and Washington, jail incarceration rates are higher in rural counties than in urban and suburban counties. The briefs, created in partnership with the University of Georgia and Washington State University, demonstrate that jails in these rural counties are primarily holding people for minor charges. The majority of jail admissions in rural counties in both Georgia and Washington were for non-violent charges, including driving with a suspended license, penalties related to navigating criminal legal system rules (like failure to appear in court), and probation violations. The briefs recommends the use of citation in lieu of arrest and automatic pretrial release policies, as well as the strengthening of pretrial services and avoidance of using jail as a penalty for failing to appear in court or for technical probation violations.

Source: Vera

The effects of firearm sales and legislation on crime and violence are intensely debated, with multiple studies yielding differing results. The authors of this paper hypothesized that increased lawful firearm sales would not be associated with the rates of crime and homicide when studied using a robust statistical method. National and state rates of crime and homicide during 1999-2015 were obtained from the U.S. Department of Justice and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Instant Criminal Background Check System background checks were used as a surrogate for lawful firearm sales. The authors found that, nationally, all crime rates except the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-designated firearm homicides decreased as firearm sales increased over the study period. Using a naive national model, increases in firearm sales were associated with significant decreases in multiple crime categories. However, a more robust analysis using generalized estimating equation estimates on state-level data demonstrated increases in firearms sales were not associated with changes in any crime variables examined. Robust analysis does not identify an association between increased lawful firearm sales and rates of crime or homicide. Based on this, it is unclear if efforts to limit lawful firearm sales would have any effect on rates of crime, homicide, or injuries from violence committed with firearms.

Source: Journal of Surgical Research

Minnesota has the 11th highest rate of people under correctional control in the nation, primarily driven by having the 5th highest rate of people on supervision. Of the nearly 122,000 people under correctional control in 2019, 87%were on probation or supervised release. However, despite Minnesota’s heavy reliance on supervision over incarceration, the state has historically underinvested in community supervision. As a result, counties disproportionately carry responsibility for supervision funding leaving local agencies without the resources to consistently implement evidence-based practices. Inconsistencies in risk and need assessment, the use of incentives and sanctions, and supervision outcome measurement also negatively impact supervision effectiveness statewide. In addition, supervision agencies struggle with a lack of specialized training and quality assurance practices, as well as insufficient community-based risk-reduction programming, housing, and behavioral health treatment options. As a result, there are wide variations in supervision outcomes and practices across the state. In addition, more than 60% of Minnesota prison admissions are due to supervision failures, which cost the state more than $77 million annually. Black and Native American people are also overrepresented in the state’s correctional system, and Native American people are more likely to have their probation revoked than any other racial group. The report includes policy proposals, including defining one funding formula to empower counties and Tribes to make supervision decisions based on public safety and local needs, and to develop revocation or half-way back caseloads to safely stabilize people who are struggling on probation in the community.

Source: Justice Reinvestment Initiative Minnesota


In August 2022, the federal government announced a plan to forgive up to $10,000 in federal student loans for almost all borrowers, with up to an extra $10,000 for borrowers who had received Pell grants. The additional forgiveness for Pell borrowers intends to address the racial wealth gap, as Black and Hispanic students are more likely to receive Pell grants than white students, acknowledging the common critique that a broad student loan forgiveness plan primarily benefited white borrowers. Analyzing a sample of a recent cohort of borrowers, the data show that although the Pell bonus has little impact on the racial distribution of recent students who will receive student loan relief, it significantly increases the share of Pell recipients, of all racial and ethnic groups, who will have all their federal loans forgiven. Key findings from the report include that Pell recipients are less likely than their non-Pell peers to have earned a bachelor’s degree and are nearly twice as likely to have left school with no credential. Among all non–Pell students eligible for $10,000 in debt forgiveness, white borrowers make up the largest share of forgiveness recipients. Because Pell recipients are more likely to be Black or Hispanic, targeting Pell recipients likely benefits students of color and students who left school with no degree or credential. The addition of the $10,000 Pell bonus increased the share of recent Pell recipients who would have the full amount of their federal student loans forgiven from 37% to more than 50%. The students who would have the largest share of borrowers debt-free are American Indian or Alaska Native borrowers (66%), Hispanic borrowers (61%), and Black borrowers (56% percent).

Source: Urban Institute

Real-time performance data in education enable critically needed tracking of program activities and instructors’ and learners’ progress to better inform adaptations along the way. The availability of—and access to—real-time performance data from classrooms and other learning spaces will be critical in addressing the increasingly dire learning crisis facing today’s children and youth. Collecting data in real time is inherently challenging. Paper-based systems of data collection can be slow, administratively burdensome, and prone to human error. Digital technologies potentially offer more efficient collection and analysis of real-time data, allow for more flexibility and customizability, and can provide functionalities such as automatically generated visualizations and ongoing recommendations. This report provides an overview of some of the key considerations related to real-time data collection in education, with a particular focus on the digital tools that enable their collection. The report contains a typology of tools and selection criteria to support policymakers, practitioners, and researchers around the globe in either developing new tools or selecting from the landscape of existing ones. The purpose of the report is to help initiate dialogue around the use of real-time data for adaptive management in education and contribute to data-informed decisions toward ensuring that all children have access to quality teaching and learning experiences. It is important to select the right data collection tool to fit any particular need, so the authors have described each by their intended function, usability, and context of usefulness.

Source: Brookings


Local governments routinely subsidize sports stadiums and arenas using the justification that hosting professional franchises produces economic development and social benefits in the community. The prevalence of venue subsidies generated an extensive and vibrant research literature, which spans over 30 years and includes more than 130 studies. This paper chronicles the research from early studies of tangible economic impacts in metropolitan areas, using basic empirical methods, through recent analyses that focus on sub-local and non-pecuniary effects and employ more sophisticated empirical methods. Though findings have become more nuanced, recent analyses continue to confirm the decades-old consensus of very limited economic impacts of professional sports teams and stadiums. Even with added non-pecuniary social benefits from quality-of-life externalities and civic pride, welfare improvements from hosting teams tend to fall well short of covering public outlays. The researchers concluded that the local economic development from sports teams and venues didn’t offset the public investment provided to build them, because most spending at stadiums is done by local residents, using the money they would have spent at other nearby businesses. Thus, the large subsidies commonly devoted to constructing professional sports venues are not justified as worthwhile public investments.

Source: Journal of Economic Surveys

The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) requires that gasoline and diesel fuels be blended with a minimum volume of renewable fuel. Small refineries can petition the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) annually for an exemption from their RFS obligations based on disproportionate economic hardship. The EPA must evaluate small refinery exemption petitions in consultation with U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). The number of exemptions granted through this program has fluctuated significantly from year to year. The EPA does not have assurance that its decisions about small refinery exemptions under the RFS are based on valid information. In addition, the EPA and the DOE do not have policies and procedures specifying how they are to consult about and make exemption decisions. The EPA has routinely missed the 90-day statutory deadline for issuing exemption decisions and does not have procedures to ensure that it meets these deadlines. In 5 of the 9 years, the EPA took more than 200 days to issue a decision for more than half of the petitions submitted. These late decisions diminish the benefit of exemptions, create market uncertainty, discourage investment, and undermine the design of the RFS more broadly. The report recommends that the EPA and Energy develop policies and procedures for making small refinery exemption decisions, and more.

Source: United States Government Accountability Office


This report presents national estimates of different types of health insurance coverage and lack of coverage (uninsured). Estimates are presented by selected sociodemographic characteristics, including age, sex, race and Hispanic origin, family income, education level, employment status, and marital status. In 2021, 28.1 million (8.6%) people of all ages were uninsured at the time of the interview. This includes 27.8 million (10.3%) people under age 65. Among children, 2.9 million (4.1%) were uninsured, and among working-age adults (aged 18–64), 24.9 million (12.6%) were uninsured. Among people under age 65, 65.4% were covered by private health insurance, including 56.9% with employment-based coverage and 7.2% with directly purchased coverage. Moreover, 4.5% were covered by exchange-based coverage, a type of directly purchased coverage. Among people under age 65, about two in five children and one in five adults were covered by public health coverage, mainly by Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. Among adults aged 65 and over, the percentage who were covered by private health insurance (with or without Medicare), Medicare Advantage, and traditional Medicare only varied by age, family income, education level, and race and Hispanic origin.

Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic that began in late 2019 and continues as of the writing of this report in summer 2022 has been the cause of both tremendous tragedy—in lives lost and economic hardship—and great triumph in the rapid development of effective vaccines. Many nations around the world have scrambled to respond to a once-in-a-century event that has exposed many weaknesses in response planning and capabilities, including those of the United States. Even as the pandemic continues, it is not too early to reflect on the missteps that have been made and lessons that can be learned so that the United States and nations worldwide can be better prepared for the future. This report contains a collection of essays that explores topics of critical importance toward that aim and identifies actions that can be taken to not only improve pandemic preparedness but also help prevent the occurrence of future pandemics. The essays center on U.S. challenges and experiences, but the solutions, in many cases, require collaborative efforts that reach across national boundaries. The first essay outlines the abundance of warning that a major outbreak of some kind was possible, even imminent. Yet warning about threats to national security that do not have an obvious perpetrator—state or terrorist—poses an inherently difficult challenge for analysts to alert policymakers in a way that persuades them to take proactive measures. In another essay, concern about laboratory safety practices as a possible cause of the COVID-19 outbreak in China and the proliferation of high containment laboratories raise questions about future research with dangerous pathogens. Even if the COVID-19 pandemic did not originate from a lab leak, the historical record of accidents must be addressed. Another essay discusses how the COVID-19 pandemic exposed flaws in the stockpiling of medical supplies essential for responding to a pandemic, as well as national supply chain vulnerabilities affecting these materials. In the United States, chronic underfunding of programs to ensure an adequate supply of personal protective equipment (PPE), adequate testing capabilities, and medical equipment, such as ventilators, catalyzed a search around the globe for supplies.

Source: RAND Corporation

Mental health disorders account for a significant share of the overall global disease burden and translate into staggeringly large economic losses, particularly in low-income countries, where people are faced with several unexpected shocks. In this report, the authors test whether improved communication can mitigate such mental health disorders. Partnering with a major telecommunications company, the authors implement low-cost communication interventions that provide mobile calling credits to a nationally representative set of low-income adults in Ghana during the COVID-19 pandemic. Individuals’ inability to make unexpected calls, need to borrow airtime, and to seek digital loans decreased significantly relative to a control group. As a result, the programs led to a significant decrease in mental distress (-9.8%) and the likelihood of severe mental distress by -2.3 percentage points (a quarter of the mean prevalence), with null impact on consumption expenditure. The effects are stronger for monthly mobile credits than a lump-sum. Simple cost-benefit analysis shows that providing communication credit to low-income adults is a cost-effective policy for improving mental health. Communication -- the ability to stay connected -- meaningfully improves mental well-being, and interventions about communication are particularly valuable when implemented as many installments.

Source: Brookings Institute

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