Over the past four decades, our country’s incarceration rate – the number of prisoners per capita – has more than quadrupled and is now unprecedented in world history.
Today, roughly 2.2 million people are behind bars in the United States, an increase of 1.9 million since 1972. We have the world’s largest prison population – with one-quarter of its prisoners but just 5 percent of the total population.
And, on any given day, some 7 million people – about one in every 31 people – are under the supervision of the corrections system, either locked up or probation or parole.
This vast expansion of the corrections system – which has been called “the New Jim Crow” – is the direct result of a failed, decades-long drug war and a “law and order” movement that began amid the urban unrest of the late 1960s, just after the civil rights era.
It’s a system marred by vast racial disparities – one that stigmatizes and targets young black men for arrest at a young age, unfairly punishes communities of color, burdens taxpayers and exacts a tremendous social cost. Today, African-American men who failed to finish high school are more likely to be behind bars than employed.
We’re using litigation and advocacy to help end the era of mass incarceration, to root out racial discrimination in the system, and to ensure humane, constitutional standards for prisoners:
- Reforming policies that lead to the incarceration of children and teens for minor crimes and school-related offenses;
- Working to transform a juvenile system that subjects children to abuse and neglect without providing necessary medical, mental health, educational and rehabilitative services.
- Ensuring that prisoners are not subjected to unconstitutional, inhumane conditions and that they receive proper medical and mental health care.
- Seeking to stop the prosecution of children in the adult criminal justice system and their incarceration in adult prisons and jails.
- Advocating for rational policies and laws that keep communities safe while vastly shrinking the prison population and reducing the social and economic impact of mass incarceration on vulnerable communities.