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To Build a Better Criminal Justice System

25 Experts Envision the
Next 25 Years of Reform

In October 2011 The Sentencing Project celebrated its
25th anniversary with a forum held at the National
Press Club in Washington, D.C. That event, Criminal
Justice 2036, was designed with two ideas in mind. First,
to celebrate the accomplishments of our organization
over a quarter century, of which we are indeed
proud. Our contributions to public debate and public
policy on issues of crime and punishment during the
period, we hope, have helped in some measure to reduce
harm and improve lives.
Secondly, and more importantly, we used the occasion
to envision what our criminal justice system—and our
approach to public safety—should look like 25 years into the
future, in the year 2036. We did so because we believe there
is a moment of opportunity now, and therefore it is timely
to think broadly about directions for constructive reform.

In order to envision where we might go over 25 years, it is
helpful to assess where we have come from in the last 25
years. In this regard, there are two very different stories we
might tell.
The first is one of a policy climate in which punishment has
been exalted in ways unimaginable not very long ago. The
number of people in our prisons and jails has nearly tripled
during this time, a half million people are incarcerated for
a drug offense, and racial/ethnic disparities within the justice
system are profound. Increasingly, we are gaining new
insight into the varied ways in which high rates of incarceration
in disadvantaged communities affect family formation,
social cohesion, and life prospects.

Read on...

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