“We must reimagine the justice problem.”
So say a group of writers penning a recent in-depth article on criminal law and reform for the Brennan Center for Justice. That entity is a long-established bipartisan public policy institute with a criminal law reform perspective.
The cited Brennan piece is short on sermonizing and long on instructive thoughts conveying both serious problems inherent in the American justice system and ideas for constructively addressing them.
Some sobering statistics relevant to the U.S. “justice” realm
Criminal sentencing outcomes in Colorado and nationally – relevant in both state and federal cases – have long been influenced by tough-on-crime policies authored in prior decades. Unfortunately, entrenched campaigns such as the War on Crime and War on Drugs initiatives have yielded legions of draconian sentencing results that call into question both logic and fundamental fairness.
That is far from mere opinion. Myriad empirical sources underscore these realities germane to the U.S. criminal law system:
- Although the United States has less than 5% of the world’s population, a staggering 25% of all global prisoners are locked away in American prisons and jails
- More than 2 million individuals are currently incarcerated
- More than 9 million people routinely “cycle in and out” of penal facilities
- 70 million-plus individuals have criminal conviction histories that mar future opportunities
Such data cast a spotlight on what is clearly a flawed system in dire need of remedial adjustment. The Brennan piece explicitly recognizes that, stressing the “broken” nature of American criminal law policies.
Notwithstanding the calling out of illogic and inequity, though, the policy institute is essentially upbeat concerning changes that it insists can be implemented to materially improve American justice.
An offered agenda for American criminal law reform
Here are some prominent recommendations presented by the Brennan Center to improve the U.S. justice realm:
- Federal grant money that supports states’ efforts to reduce prison populations
- Promotion of a nationally uniform “use of force” standard that can deter outlier police practices and yield consistent outcomes in enforcer-citizen interactions
- Creation of national database spotlighting police misconduct incidents
- Fostering of closer police-community relationship concerning implementation of enforcement policies and programs
- Sentencing reforms that curb prosecutorial discretion and encourage community-based alternatives to incarceration outcomes
- Expanded expungement programs that can likely enable legions of convicted efforts to ultimately secure a fair and fresh start in their communities
The Brennan Center notes that policymakers “should aim high” when considering and authoring reform-minded changes. Collectively, well-considered adjustments can help to reshape the American justice system into a more equitable and logical criminal law model.