The U.S. locks up more people than any other nation on the planet, placing nearly one out of every 100 adults in jail or prison. This practice carries huge costs for our country, our families, and our communities – especially communities of color.

Criminal Justice Reform

With 2.2 million people behind bars, the United States locks up more people than any other nation on the planet – placing nearly one out of every 100 American adults in jail or prison. This practice carries huge costs for our nation, our families, and our communities – especially communities of color, where 1 in 3 black men and 1 in 6 Latino men can expect to be imprisoned in their lifetime – even while the research shows that increased incarceration has little effect on crime rates. Reducing the prison population has the potential to restore communities, while improving individual outcomes and freeing up billions of taxpayer dollars currently being spent on jails and prisons – money that could instead be invested in underfunded yet vital areas like education.

Mass incarceration makes our country worse off, and we need to do something about it.”

— President Barack Obama

Largely bipartisan criminal justice reform in a number of states is being driven by a rare degree of left-right consensus on key aspects of sentencing reform and post-incarceration policy. These efforts – some enacted piecemeal, others comprehensive – cover everything from changing the use of pretrial detention and reforming the bail system, to improving representation at trial and throughout the legal process, to focusing parole and probation on effective community reintegration.

Still, there is more to be done to combat the causes and devastating long-term effects of mass incarceration on communities throughout the country. State-based reform efforts must include changes not only to sentencing and corrections policies, but also to our policing and detention practices – and they should encompass reintegration and restoration policies for those who have been incarcerated. Moreover, to achieve true change, any criminal justice reforms must be paired with robust reinvestment of resulting savings in the communities most affected by current policies – providing access to treatment, health care, education, and jobs.

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