The unequal treatment of people of color in the justice system is one of the most profound civil rights crises facing America in the new century. It undermines the progress we have made over the past five decades in ensuring equality under the law, and calls into doubt our national faith in the rule of that law. This treatment manifests itself in a mushrooming prison population that is disproportionately Black and Latino; in the decay of communities of color that have given up an entire generation of young men and, increasingly young women, to prison; and in a widely held belief among African Americans and Latinos that the justice system is deserving neither of trust nor of support.
Our work helps bring together unique and unlikely allies around the need for comprehensive justice reform and highlights the need for reform in each stage of the justice system, from law enforcement and policing, to sentencing and prison reform, to re-entry. To that end, we focus on three primary areas of criminal justice reform: (1) ensuring racial justice in the criminal justice system; (2) maintaining civil rights protections and increasing transparency and accountability in federal, state and local law enforcement agencies; and (3) raising awareness of the need to provide opportunities for formerly incarcerated people to become fully contributing members of society.
Policies that fail to account for how people released from state and federal prisons will successfully reintegrate into society have a real human cost. Every year, nearly 700,000 people are released from state and federal prisons in the United States.
In the 30 years since the ill-conceived War on Drugs began, the prison population has exploded largely due to the overly harsh mandatory minimum sentences imposed for low-level offenses that were enacted in the 1980s and 1990s.
It is clear that the relationship between police and the public they are supposed to serve has become increasingly dysfunctional. Public trust in the police has consistently eroded over time, especially in communities of color that are overly policed.