31 criminal justice reforms ripe for victory in 2023 legislative sessions
New Winnable Criminal Justice Reforms report provides state lawmakers with resources and information to secure victory on these important reforms.
Despite millions of dollars in TV advertisements and countless hours of hyperbolic news coverage, last week, voters across the country rejected fearmongering about efforts to overhaul the nation’s broken criminal legal system. They made clear they are interested in solutions and that the scare tactics that have been a staple of American politics for generations no longer resonate as they once did.
With that in mind, today, we released our annual guide to winnable state legislative criminal justice reforms ripe for victory in 2023. These 31 reforms will shrink the carceral system, mitigate its harms, and remove deeply entrenched financial incentives from the system.
The reforms focus on nine areas:
- Expanding alternatives to criminal justice system responses to social problems;
- Reducing the number of people entering the “revolving doors” of jail and prison;
- Improving sentencing structures and release processes to encourage timely and successful releases from prison;
- Reducing the footprint of probation and parole systems and supporting success on supervision;
- Protecting incarcerated people and families from exploitation by private contractors;
- Promoting physical and mental health among incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people;
- Giving all communities equal voice in how our justice system works;
- Setting people up to succeed upon release; and
- Eliminating relics of the harmful and racist “war on drugs.”
Each reform explains the problem it seeks to solve, points to in-depth research on the topic, and highlights solutions or legislation introduced or passed in states. While this list is not intended to be a comprehensive platform, we’ve curated it to offer policymakers and advocates straightforward solutions that would have a significant impact without further investments in the carceral system and point to policy reforms that have gained momentum in the past year. We have focused especially on those reforms that would reduce the number of people needlessly confined in prisons and jails. We made a conscious choice not to include critical reforms unique to just a few states or important reforms for which we don’t yet have enough useful resources to be helpful to most states.
We sent this guide to hundreds of lawmakers across the country — from all parties — who have shown interest in fixing the criminal legal system in their state. As they put together their legislative agendas for the upcoming session, legislators can use this guide to develop solutions to make their state’s criminal legal system more just, equitable, and fair.