OUR CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM IS BROKEN
With these startling facts, it is easy to see just how broken our justice system is. Justice reform not only improves public safety and makes our system more effective, it can restore trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve.
From the state house to the White House, momentum is growing for substantive changes to our justice system that safely reduce the prison population, crime, and recidivism rates. Elected officials and lawmakers in states across the nation are already making headway by successfully enacting bipartisan reforms that save valuable taxpayer dollars and ensure better outcomes for everyone.
Overcrowded Jails and Prisons
We lock too many people away for too long without the public safety return we deserve. The United States leads developed countries in incarceration with 2.17 million people currently in the nation’s prisons or jails — an almost 200 percent increase over the past thirty years. If you look at those impacted, almost 60 percent of the people in prison are now racial and ethnic minorities. At the federal level, the prison population increased from approximately 25,000 to 196,500 individuals over the last three decades. Learn more >>
Cycle of Incarceration
American taxpayers spend $80 billion each year on jails and prisons. In many states, one out of every three offenders who leave prison will return within three years. At the federal level, half of those who leave prison are rearrested within eight years. Learn more >>
Societal and Economic Barriers for the Formerly Incarcerated
Approximately 2.17 million people are behind bars in prison or jail right now in the United States; the vast majority of whom will exit those prisons and rejoin society. Just one day in jail can affect someone’s economic outlook for years to come, and people who served time in prison are faced with higher unemployment rates and a 40 percent decrease in annual earnings. And for those who have served time, the path to becoming a productive member of society is made more difficult by legal barriers. Learn more >>
Overcriminalization is the explosion of state, federal, and local laws and regulations that govern behavior that is not traditionally understood as criminal. There are an estimated 5,000 federal criminal laws and as many as 300,000 federal regulations that can be enforced criminally. At the current rate, Congress passes an average of over 500 new crimes every decade. These laws often exist without requisite elements of intent, and are over-broad and vaguely written. Learn more >>
Misuse of Civil Asset Forfeiture Procedures
America’s justice system is based around a simple but powerful concept: “innocent until proven guilty”. But today, many law enforcement agencies are able to seize property from everyday Americans using a process known as civil asset forfeiture, which has lead to widespread misuse. Civil asset forfeiture allows the government to seize and forfeit individuals’ property upon a mere suspicion that the property is related to illegal activity — without charging or convicting the owner with any crime. Learn more >>
Women in the Justice System
Most often overlooked in the discussion about reform is its impact on women and the experiences of women in prison. Many women face significant hurdles after incarceration, struggling to access employment, housing, and education and acclimate back into their families. But it doesn’t stop there – the system also disproportionately impacts women who have incarcerated spouses, left to raise families on their own, bearing significant financial burdens that make it increasingly difficult to provide opportunities for their children to live up to their full potential. Learn more >>