We list 27 “winnable, high-impact” state legislative reforms that would change the justice system and save lives in 2021
Our new “Winnable Criminal Justice Reforms” report lists 27 policy ideas for state legislators, as well as model bills and links to more information on each policy.
by Wanda Bertram, January 27, 2021
This report has been updated with a new version for 2022.
The new president and new Congress are stirring hopes for federal criminal justice reform, but in 2021 — just like every other year — it is state legislators who will have the power to free the most people from prisons and jails.
Because the vast majority of people locked up in this country are held in facilities controlled by state and local lawmakers, we’ve just published a report about 27 winnable criminal justice reforms that state legislators can take on. Our report includes links to model bills and studies supporting each of our recommended reforms.
Getting people out of prisons and jails — and out of the “nets” of constant surveillance that can get them thrown back in prison for minor violations — is a matter of life and death this year, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to kill people behind bars. Our list of reforms ripe for legislative victory includes many policy changes that will save lives during the pandemic, including:
- Funding non-police responses to crises involving people with disabilities or mental illnesses
- Decriminalizing youth offenses and ending the prosecution of youth as adults
- Radically reducing pretrial detention and ending money bail
- Updating the dollar threshold for felony theft
- Ending incarceration for noncriminal violations of probation and parole
- Ending driver’s license suspensions for nonpayment of fines and fees
- Eliminating medical copays in prisons and jails
Our full report on winnable criminal justice reforms includes more ideas for reducing state prison populations, eliminating burdensome costs for incarcerated people, supporting people leaving prison, and promoting public health and community safety.
This week, we’re mailing our report to hundreds of state legislators and urging them to introduce these critical reforms. Will your state make criminal justice reform a priority in 2021?