Pew: States at a Crossroads on Criminal Justice Reform
Date:  02-02-2016

“Tough on Crime” policies have been disregarded in favor of more effective and just approach
After two decades of “tough on crime” policies, many states are taking a hard look at the way people are charged, how much time they serve, and what happens when they are released from prison.

While bills governing the use of body cameras and other police-related measures are likely to be considered this year, many states are looking at growing prison populations, obstacles to drug treatment, and high recidivism rates as reasons to re-evaluate their criminal justice systems. The U.S. has the highest incarceration rate in the world, and many states are at a crossroads, weighing whether to build new prisons or change how they sentence people as well as how they guide them through parole and probation.

Several states, including Alaska, Maryland and Rhode Island, are considering sweeping criminal justice changes that would ease some of the punitive policies of the 1980s and ’90s, especially when it comes to drug offenders. In some

places, lawmakers will consider recommendations made by criminal justice task forces, often with the guidance of outside groups such as the Council of State Governments (CSG) and The Pew Charitable Trusts (Pew also funds Stateline).

“If there’s a theme or common denominator, it is policymakers asking what the science says will work,” said Michael Thompson, director of the CSG’s Justice Center. “The question they’re asking is, ‘Can we get a better return on our investment?’ ”

View interactive incarceration rate chart for each state and read more here.