Justice Reform Task Force Recommendations for the New Administration

Justice reform in the United States is desperately needed. Indeed, we are at a critical juncture. Calls for change, including from the Black Lives Matter movement, range from “defunding the police” to “decarceration” to implementing a restorative justice system. There are approximately 3 million people incarcerated in the United States, over half of whom identify as Black and/or Hispanic (NAACP | Criminal Justice Fact Sheet). Inequities such as these exist throughout all aspects of the justice system, including law enforcement, courts, and corrections, and they must be addressed through transformative policy.

The Global Alliance formed a task force on mass incarceration in 2015 to address such challenges, and the task force has been particularly focused on the impact of mass incarceration on children and communities. Recently, the Global Alliance renamed the task force to Justice Reform Task Force to better capture the direction in which it was moving. The task force is comprised of a diverse group of individuals who work in a wide range of settings and share a passion for addressing the problems and limitations of the justice system.

The Justice Reform Task Force has provided the following recommendations to begin centering equity in the critically needed rebuilding of the correctional system.

Recommendations for Primary Prevention

  • Address systemic and structural racism (stigma, implicit biases) by establishing a Cabinet-level position dedicated to transforming American policing and the criminal justice system through comprehensive strategies focused on systemic transformations and community engagement.
  • Limit the use of detention (e.g., decreasing admissions, increasing the number of people released from jails and prisons) when possible.
  • Invest in communities and education:
    • Integrate community mental health services as an alternative to incarceration throughout the justice processes.
    • Increase employment and housing opportunities. 
    • Increase the federal minimum wage to a livable wage.
    • Address the school-to-prison pipeline by increasing restorative justice practices in schools, decreasing punishment, and establishing support for caregivers and families.
  • Require federal funding recipients to standardize monitoring and reporting, tracking data on investment in children to outcomes across systems.
  • Standardize, collect, and share data needed to support and enact primary prevention efforts:
    • Incentivize institutional cooperation to provide data.
    • Standardize definitions of recidivism.

Recommendations for Human Rights within the System

  • Require federal prisons to refocus on efforts that contribute to rehabilitation rather than punishment. This includes relationship development (e.g., with families) and investing in grassroot partnerships with external organizations to support individuals’ unmet needs.
    • Facilities should make concerted efforts to preserve connections with families and informal supports. For example, video visitation and phone calls should be available to all without a cost.
  • Reduce use of isolation techniques by lessening the number and types of violations that result in isolation, employing alternative strategies, and better regulating and monitoring the use of isolation.

Recommendations for Re-entry

  • Ensure release strategies are supported by resources to meet basic needs (i.e., access to housing, food, hygiene, healthcare, and employment), community supports (e.g., virtual services and access to technology), and reduced barriers to public benefits (e.g., a criminal record should not exclude individuals from accessing housing and employment).
  • Before and after re-entry:
    • Pay or otherwise incentivize participants for participation in re-entry programs.
    • Offer alumni services.