Criminal Law Reform
The Criminal Law Reform Project seeks an end to excessively harsh crime policies that result in mass incarceration and stand in the way of a just and equal society. The Project works to reduce the number of people entering jails and prisons by reforming our nation's punitive drug policies and challenging police and prosecutorial misconduct and other governmental abuses of power.
Founded in 1998 and formerly known as the Drug Law Reform Project, the Criminal Law Reform Project focuses its work at the “front end” of the criminal justice system, from policing to sentencing, with an emphasis on ending our nation's punitive drug policies, which have failed to achieve public safety and health while putting unprecedented numbers of people behind bars and eroding constitutional rights. Read more about the ACLU Criminal Law Reform Project>>
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In order to put an end to the mass an end to excessively harsh crime policies that result in mass incarceration and stand in the way of a just and equal society, we should focus on several areas including:
Overincarceration: More Americans are under some form of correctional control than ever before, often unnecessarily, at a huge expense to both personal liberty and taxpayer wallets.
Drug sentencing and policies: There are 2.3 million people behind bars in this country and a quarter of them are locked up for drug offenses. Our drug policies unfairly target people of color and cost taxpayers billions, but do little to make us safer.
Drug testing: Random drug testing, whether by a school or an employer and often unrelated to the tasks required to do the job, is an unnecessary intrusion into our personal privacy.
Marijuana law reform: Law enforcement’s selective targeting low-level marijuana possession is a waste of limited resources. More people than ever before believe that marijuana should be decriminalized.
Police practices: Good police practices, thorough training, carefully crafted policies and appropriate allocation of resources in law enforcement can ensure public safety and prevent abuses in encounters between police officers and citizens.
Juvenile justice: Young people are still developing and have a unique capacity for change that must be recognized in their treatment within the criminal justice system.
The goal of the criminal justice system should be humane and sensible policies that respect basic human rights and liberties and make the best use of limited resources to help keep us safe.
Mass Incarceration Problems (2011 PDF): Our criminal justice system should keep communities safe and treat people fairly, regardless of the color of their skin or the size of their bank account. And in order for our system to do a good job, it must be cost-effective by using our taxpayer dollars and public resources wisely.
[Infographic] Combating Mass Incarceration - The Facts (2011 infographic): An Infographic on Mass Incarceration: America’s criminal justice system should keep communities safe, treat people fairly, and use fiscal resources wisely. But more Americans are deprived of their liberty than ever before - unfairly and unnecessarily, with no benefit to public safety. Especially in the face of economic crisis, our government should invest in alternatives to incarceration and make prisons options of last – not first – resort.
Smart Reform Is Possible: States Reducing Incarceration Rates and Costs While Protecting Communities (2011 report): Since President Richard Nixon first announced the "War on Drugs" 40 years ago, the United States has adopted "tough on crime" criminal justice policies that have given it the dubious distinction of having the highest incarceration rate in the world.