Our criminal legal system is hurting us. The U.S. represents just 5 percent of the world’s population, but it represents nearly 25 percent of the world’s prison population. The overuse of probation and parole, use of mandatory sentences, use of cash bail, and life without parole sentences are some of the many issues that have led to 6.7 million people being under correctional control in this country.
This is a system that disproportionately affects young people, and especially young people of color. Young people—those ages 18 to 35—make up only 30 percent of the U.S. adult population, yet they represent 60 percent of adult arrests and 42 percent of adult prison admissions. The consequences of an arrest or conviction can create lifelong barriers to accessing education, housing, and equitable employment opportunities. The impacts of this fall hardest on Black and Latinx communities and it has had a devastating impact on their long-term safety and stability.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. Your elected state officials control a large portion of what causes mass incarceration, plus they can determine how this system operates. State legislators, along with governors, can have the greatest impact on shrinking the criminal legal system and mitigating its harms.
Other ways your state legislator and governor can shrink the system:
- End mandatory minimums
- Shorten terms of probation and parole to 1-2 years
- End life without parole sentences