Today, in America, hundreds of thousands of people are serving decades-long prison sentences that are far out of proportion to their crimes. The ACLU works to do away with extreme sentencing laws and mandatory minimum laws that strip judges of their ability to make the sentence actually fit the crime, by supporting and pushing through legislation such as the Smarter Sentencing Act.
Influencing Public Policy with a Powerful Voice
Our legislative and state advocates are a constant presence in federal government agency offices, on Capitol Hill, and in every state in the U.S., working with law and policy makers to ensure the necessary statutes exist to protect our civil rights.
See key congressional votes via our legislative scorecard
What You Need to Know
- $7.2 billionThe Department of Justice spends $7.2 billion a year to incarcerate over 209,000 people in the Federal Bureau of Prisons at a cost of over $30,000 per year per person.
- Tens of ThousandsSince 2007, the congressional budget requires U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to detain tens of thousands of immigrants.
- PATRIOT ActThe law that gives the NSA the power to collect American phone records in bulk, Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act, will expire on June 1 unless Congress acts to extend it.
Our immigration detention system locks up hundreds of thousands of immigrants unnecessarily every year, in part through facilities specifically intended for mothers and children. The ACLU fights every day to challenge troubling policies that require bed quotas, and ensure increased monitoring of unaccompanied minors to prevent sexual abuse and other harms to them while they’re in custody.
There is a disconnect between law enforcement and the communities they serve, particularly in communities of color. The ACLU is spearheading efforts in Congress and the Administration to improve police practice by advocating for thorough training, carefully crafted policies, and appropriate allocation of resources to law enforcement.
The NSA and other intelligence and law enforcement agencies continue to use and abuse sweeping surveillance powers, which threaten the constitutional and human rights of millions of people around the world. The ACLU is fighting for meaningful reforms that will put the brakes on government spying and ensure our rights are respected.
With increasing frequency, we are seeing individuals and institutions claiming a right to discriminate—by refusing to provide services to women and LGBT people—based on religious objections. The ACLU works to defend religious liberty and ensure that no one is discriminated against or denied services because of someone else’s religious beliefs.
Our work on the federal level touches many other issues, from cybersecurity to LGBT equality. Find out more about what bills are moving through the current congress here.