Skip to Main Content

Criminal Justice Reform

Criminal Justice Reform Defined

"The United States incarcerates its citizens more than any other country. Mass incarceration disproportionately impacts the poor and people of color and does not make us safer.

In the American criminal justice system, wealth—not culpability—shapes outcomes. Many people charged with crimes lack the resources to investigate cases or obtain the help they need, leading to wrongful convictions and excessive sentences, even in capital cases.

Racial disparities persist at every level from misdemeanor arrests to executions. The “tough on crime” policies that led to mass incarceration are rooted in the belief that Black and brown people are inherently guilty and dangerous—and that belief still drives excessive sentencing policies today.

More incarceration doesn’t reduce violent crime. Using prisons to deal with poverty and mental illness makes these problems worse. People leave overcrowded and violent jails and prisons more traumatized, mentally ill, and physically battered than they went in.

Today, nearly 10 million Americans—including millions of children—have an immediate family member in jail or prison. More than 4.5 million Americans can’t vote because of a past conviction. And each year, we lose $87 billion in GDP due to mass incarceration."

Equal Justice Initiative