Imprisonment is a brutal and costly response to crime that traumatizes incarcerated people and hurts families and communities. It should be the last option, not the first. Yet the U.S. incarcerates more people, in both absolute numbers and per capita, than any other nation in the world.

The ACLU Campaign for Smart Justice is an unprecedented, multiyear effort to reduce the U.S. jail and prison population by 50% and to combat racial disparities in the criminal justice system. We are working in all 50 states for reforms to usher in a new era of justice in America.

The Campaign for Smart Justice is fighting in the legislatures, the courts, and in the streets to end mass incarceration.

  • Sentencing Reform: We must reduce both the number of people entering jails and prisons and the extreme laws and policies that drive extraordinarily long prison terms.
     
  • Bail Reform: Unjust and for-profit bail systems needlessly lock up millions of people who haven’t been convicted of a crime just because they can’t afford to pay bail. We’re overhauling this harmful system that strips people of their rights, targets poor people and people of color, and hurts families and communities.
     
  • Prosecutorial Reform: Prosecutors across the country work towards convictions, not justice. These mostly elected officials bear great responsibility for driving mass incarceration. We’re changing that by challenging prosecutorial abuse in the courts and legislatures and through voter education.
     
  • Parole Reform: Hundreds of thousands of people—including those convicted of violent and non-violent crimes—stay in prison for too long because of broken parole and release systems. By expanding evidence-based opportunities for release, we are working to ensure systems are fair, respect people’s rights, and promote safety and success for those returning to their communities.
     
  • Reentry. Each year, 600,000 men and women nationwide return from prison to their communities. Yet the challenges do not end once the prison bars are lifted. They face nearly 50,000 federal, state and local legal restrictions that make it difficult to reintegrate back into society. We are working to end the collateral consequences that are imposed on people living with a criminal record.

Stay Informed