Our criminal justice system in America has been severely flawed from its inception. Our so-called “tough on crime” laws have led us to be the nation with the most incarcerated population in the developed world – disproportionately affecting minorities and some of our most already hard hit communities. Yet at the same time, we have some of the highest levels of violence and crime. It is clearly not an effective strategy, and in fact is largely destructive.
Pew research has shown that if you are locking up more than 500 people per 100,000, you are actually adding to crime because we are disrupting and destabilizing so many families and communities that cannot easily recover. The national average in many parts of the US is over 700 per 100,000 and there are many communities around the country that are at 2000 or even 4000 per 100,000. We must do better, and we can do better.
We are seeing a plethora of cost-effective and evidence-based approaches to implementing justice in society that focus more on healing harm done, rather than simply punishing it. These approaches are proving to work better than our current approach.
To move away from overly punitive policies toward healing-oriented, rehabilitative-focused criminal and juvenile justice approaches that address underlying root causes.
Work to dismantle racial inequities in the current judicial system and monetary incentives inherently built into the current prison industrial complex and eliminate the cradle-to-prison pipeline.
Restorative and transformative justice, diversion/alternative incarceration programs, trauma-informed systems, and robust prisoner rehabilitation and re-entry programs are among the most promising solutions.
“Most people imagine that the explosion in the U.S. prison population during the past twenty-five years reflects changes in crime rates. Few would guess that our prison population leaped from approximately 350,000 to 2.3 million in such a short period of time due to changes in laws and policies, not changes in crime rates. Yet it has been changes in our laws—particularly the dramatic increases in the length of our prison sentences—that have been responsible for the growth of our prison system, not increases in crime. One study suggests that the entire increase in the prison population from 1980 to 2001 can be explained by sentencing policy changes.”
― Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness
Some of the Most Challenging Obstacles to
Humanizing Our Justice System
“Dehumanization, although a concrete historical fact, is not a given destiny but the result of an unjust order that engenders violence in the oppressors, which in turn dehumanizes the oppressed.” – Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed
“It is about how easily we condemn people in this country and the injustice we create when we allow fear, anger, and distance to shape the way we treat the most vulnerable among us.” –Bryan Stevenson, Just Mercy: a story of justice and redemption
The viewpoints of The Peace Alliance are not meant to be representative of the organizations referenced or linked below.