Transforming the System


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Research Report
Published: 2016
Person breaks free from fence symbolizing criminal justice reform, redemption, and liberation.
Artwork by Alixa García

Our criminal justice system must keep all communities safe, foster prevention and rehabilitation, and ensure fair and equal justice. But in too many places, and in too many ways, our system is falling short of that mandate and with devastating consequences. The United States is saddled with an outdated, unfair, and bloated criminal justice system that drains resources and disrupts communities.

“Law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress.” - Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

People of color, particularly Native American, black, and Latino people, have felt the impact of discrimination within the criminal justice system. Many immigrants experience mandatory detention, racial profiling, and due process violations because of laws and policies that violate their human rights—and the principles of equal justice, fair treatment, and proportionality under our criminal justice system. The good news is that we as a nation are at a unique moment in which there is strong public, bipartisan support for criminal justice reform; we see positive policy developments in many parts of the country; and mass action and social movements for change are growing, including the Movement for Black Lives. More is needed, however, to move from positive trends to transformative, lasting change. This report provides practical policy solutions and communication tools for building a shared narrative around criminal justice reform.