Criminal Justice Reform: Issues and Options for the Next President | Brookings Institution

The Brooking Institution has interesting short papers outlining what the next President should do. Certainly criminal justice reform is one of the issues the next President needs to deal with: 

Americans across partisan, ideological, and racial lines are rethinking the country’s criminal justice system. This is entirely appropriate—and necessary. And yet, conversations, debates, and policy prescriptions around this issue often are not rooted in sound data. All too often, convoluted and even contradictory facts are cited, undermining efforts to improve a system that is in many ways broken. In this brief, we seek to provide citizens and policymakers—including the next president—with a framework for assessing the opportunities and challenges of criminal justice reform by situating decades-long trends in crime and punishment in the appropriate historical and comparative contexts. We have compiled, and report here, the best substantiated data on five critical elements of the criminal justice system: nationwide crime rates; prison population and buildup; the costs of incarceration; and individuals killed by police.

Taken together, the facts presented here establish an evidentiary basis that will allow interested parties to approach these exceedingly complex issues from a common place of factual understanding. We conclude by examining recent legislative efforts related to criminal justice reform and urging the next president and congress to seize the opportunity afforded by contemporary bi-partisan support and public demand for action around these issues.

The future course of the American criminal justice system has come under immense scrutiny in very recent years. The White House has indicated that substantial reform would be a leading priority for President Obama’s last year in office; both chambers of congress have seen legislation introduced and debated; Americans across the country have turned their passionate attention to the issue; and the subject has been raised in all of the presidential and vice presidential debates thus far in the 2016 campaign. At times, however, the passions of both citizens and lawmakers on this issue are fueled by incomplete, inaccurate, and insufficient data. For that reason, we set out to collect and compile the best substantiated data on critical elements of the criminal justice system and to provide an informed and common framework for understanding the state of the system today, and the proposed reforms that will shape its future.


The full report can be found here.  


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