On March 26th hundreds of people from dozens of organizations came together in Washington D.C. with one task in mind—to express shared commitments to reforming our nation’s broken criminal justice system. This Bipartisan Summit included participants from the progressive Soros backed Open Society Foundation to the conservative Heritage Foundation, united only in their shared belief that the blight of mass incarceration in our country must be addressed.
For the last four decades, the United States has relentlessly expanded the size of its criminal justice system. Since 1970 the U.S. prison population has risen 700%. While the United States has only 5% of the world’s population, it has 25% of the world’s prison population – making us the world’s largest jailer. Our massive prison system has come at a devastating social and financial cost to our communities, separating families, making it nearly impossible for people to find jobs upon release, and imposing penalties without regard to whether they serve the most important purpose of our system: ensuring community safety.
We use prison far too often. And in far too many cases incarceration not only doesn’t work, it hurts us. Moreover, African Americans and Latinos overwhelmingly and disproportionately bear the brunt of mass incarceration, even where they commit offenses, such as using drugs, at the same rate as white people.
In America, our criminal justice system should keep communities safe and treat people fairly, regardless of the color of their skin or the size of their bank account. That is why it is so important that legislators, advocates, law enforcement, community representatives and others from both sides of the aisle are finally coming together to press for systemic change.
That is also why the ACLU-NH joined Mark Holden, General Counsel of Koch Industries, Inc. and Christine Leonard, Executive Director of the Coalition for Public Safety in an op-ed in today’s Union Leader calling for New Hampshire to be a leader in criminal justice reform.
The ACLU will continue to work to end excessively harsh crime policies that result in mass incarceration and stand in the way of a just and equal society. And we will continue to seek out unusual allies, in New Hampshire and nationally, to help us achieve this critical goal.