According to the report, America’s criminal legal system has produced excessive levels of punishment and a diversion of resources from investments that would strengthen the capacity of communities to address the circumstances that contribute to crime.
After 50 years of mass incarceration, the United States faces a reckoning. While crime is far below its peak in the early 1990s, the country continues to struggle with an unacceptable amount of gun violence. Meanwhile, the drug war harms too many Americans and has failed to prevent fatal overdoses from reaching an all-time high.
The report offers five recommendations for policymakers and community members to potentially improve safety without deepening our reliance on extreme sentencing:
- Implement community safety solutions – Community-based interventions such as violence interruption programs and changes to the built environment are a promising approach to decreasing violence without incarceration.
- Transform crisis response – Shifting responses to people in crisis away from police toward trained community-based responders has the potential to reduce police shootings, improve safety, and decrease incarceration.
- Reduce unnecessary justice involvement – Ending unnecessary police contact and court involvement by decriminalizing and diverting many offenses can improve safety.
- End the drug war – Shifting away from criminalizing people who use drugs toward public health solutions can improve public health and safety.
- Strengthen opportunities for youth – Interventions like summer employment opportunities and training youth in effective decision-making skills are a promising means of reducing criminal legal involvement.
“A growing evidence-base for all of these interventions demonstrates that policymakers can think beyond police and incarceration to create safety in their communities and should invest in bringing innovative alternatives to scale.” ~The Sentencing Project
Research demonstrates that many social interventions have the potential to be more cost-effective and equitable than criminal legal responses. The highlighted interventions below in violence prevention, crisis response, early childhood education, harm reduction, and therapeutic support for youth are ways to reduce unnecessary contact with the criminal legal system while protecting public safety.
The report emphasizes our opportunity to expand on programs that improve safety while scaling back incarceration.
“By combining social interventions that address some of the root causes of crime and legislative reforms that reduce the harm of the criminal legal system, policymakers can create safer, fairer, and more equitable communities.” ~The Sentencing Project
Excellent research by authors Liz Komar and Nicole D. Porter.
Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a crime. Prison should be avoided whenever possible. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.