by Haya Luftig
Criminal justice reform is the new frontier of the Civil Rights Movement. Since the 1970s, incarceration levels in the United States have skyrocketed. Between federal and state facilities, the United States. incarcerates more than two million men, women, and juvenile—more than any other nation in the world. Among this population, low-income and people of color are vastly over-represented. Fully one-quarter are in for low level drug offenses.
One in three black men will be imprisoned over the course his lifetime, which has devastating impacts on families and communities that endure long after they have served their time. Upon reentering society, individuals with criminal records suffer further marginalization and stigma that effectively, and in some cases, legally, bar them from leading a normal life—like finding housing, getting a job, qualifying for government assistance, and voting. Returning citizens are paying for their crimes long after the sentences are served.
Current efforts to reform the criminal justice system look to promote restorative justice at all levels of engagement with our justice system like giving judges the discretion to reduce mandatory minimums, assessing recidivism reduction services available for inmates, and improving reentry programming, helping lower the barriers to successful reentry after incarceration. There is also a growing push to address some of the root problems, such as racial disparities in education that may feed the “school-to-prison” pipeline, and policing in black and Latino communities.
In the United States, between state and federal facilities, we incarcerate over two million people, leaving a devastating impact on communities and families, as well as local economies. What reforms to our criminal justice system do you see as helpful in addressing this problem?
What is your position on criminal justice reform and why? Given recent police shootings, what steps do you think can be taken in our community to improve police relations and implement better community-oriented policing?