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Criminal Justice System


Source: http://bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/cpus11.pdf

Reform of the criminal justice system has been underway for some time now throughout the United States and it has some bipartisan support, albeit for different reasons. A National Journal article entitled How Republicans Stopped Being Tough on Crime notes, “there is more bipartisan support for reforming the criminal-justice system than there has been in the past four decades.”

Reducing Mass Incarceration

The Brennan Center seeks to reduce mass incarceration through policy and legal reforms to create a more rational system that protects public safety and communities. The Center seeks to eliminate the criminalization of minor behavior, reform selective enforcement policies, institute a proportional system of punishment, and holding all actors in the criminal justice system accountable by ensuring that government dollars are spent on effective, evidence-based programs.

Prison Realignment

In California, the Criminal Justice System Primer produced by the non-partisan Legislative Analyst”s Office, explains the 2011 realignment that shifted significant responsibilities from state corrections agencies to county governments. The University of California, Berkeley School of Law found in 2012 that “from a high-level policy and legislative perspective, the strategy of shifting certain operations and fiscal responsibilities from state agencies to the counties makes sense,” but cautioned “what remains to be seen is whether these reforms result in significant savings to taxpayers and improvements in public safety.”

Ideological Roots

Chip Berlet, a former senior analyst at Political Research Associates*, traces the historical roots of three main ideological tendencies in U.S. social reform and the implications for incarceration in his 2004 article:

  1. Liberal/Progressive: based on changing systems and institutions to change individual behavior on a collective basis over time.
  2. Calvinist/Free Market: based on changing individual social behavior through punishment.
  3. Evangelical/Revivalist: based on born again conversion to change individual behavior, but still linked to some Calvinist ideas of punishment.

Note: *Political Research Associates is a “social justice think tank devoted to supporting movements that are building a more just and inclusive democratic society.” They “expose movements, institutions, and ideologies that undermine human rights.”