The Campaign for Smart Justice is an unprecedented, multi-year effort to eliminate racism in the criminal legal system and reduce the U.S. jail and prison population by 50 percent. The campaign seeks to end excessively harsh criminal justice policies that result in mass incarceration, over-criminalization, and racial injustice that stand in the way of a fair and equal society.
Despite making up close to 5% of the global population, the U.S. has nearly 25% of the world’s prison population. Since 1970, our incarcerated population has increased by 700% – 2.3 million people in jail and prison today, far outpacing population growth and crime.
The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world. In 2015, approximately 2.2 million people were in adult correctional jails and prisons around the United States. Many thousands of people, particularly people of color, are cycled in and out of state jails or prisons for minor offenses every day. Extreme sentencing laws and practices are keeping people in prisons for far longer than ever before. The result is that more people are spending more of their lives in prison than at any point in U.S. history.
Prosecutors are the most influential actors in the criminal justice system. They have almost unlimited power to push for more punishment, often in ways that are largely hidden from public view. This focus on obtaining convictions and securing severe prison sentences, instead of addressing the root causes of crime, is a major driver of mass incarceration that compounds racial disparities throughout the justice system.
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