An Equitable Approach to Criminal Justice Reform

For two decades there has been a bipartisan effort to tackle systematic problems in America’s criminal justice system. Although U.S. crime rates have fallen to 50-year lows, recidivism rates remain high, and racial/ethnic minority communities continue to suffer from higher rates of crime and police violence which often ends in tragedy.

A Better Path Forward for Criminal Justice, by the Brookings-AEI (American Enterprise Institute) Working Group on Criminal Justice Reform contains 7 essays intended to provide policymakers with guidance in major areas of criminal justice reform:

  • Police Reform: Short-, medium-, and long-term solutions to reduce racial disparities in use of force, reducing officer-involved shootings, and addressing mental health issues of officers.
  • Reimagining Pretrial and Sentencing: Development of structural reforms to ensure proportionate punishment while maintaining public safety.
  • Changing Prisons to Help People Change: Use of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) in correctional facilities to successfully reintegrate incarcerated individuals.
  • Reconsidering Police in Schools: Reallocating funds towards prevention and support services to reduce negative impacts of law enforcement presence in schools.
  • Fostering Desistance: Research regarding how and why people stop committing crimes, primarily through identity-based models.
  • Training and Employment for Correctional Populations: An interdisciplinary approach of increased educational attainment, and the overcoming of social and legal barriers as a reintegration strategy.
  • Prisoner Reentry: Reimagining reentry by addressing racial disparities in the criminal justice system, and providing equitable access to education and economic opportunities.

This report focuses on the multifaceted challenges of public safety and reform, which requires a more balanced approach. “Research-informed innovation that builds a more flexible and effective toolbox of responses is needed to move us towards the more peaceful, flourishing, and just society that is the shared objective of conservatives and progressives alike.”


For more information, check out articles on HSDL related to criminal justice reform and racial disparity in criminal justice. Please note an HSDL login is required to view some of these resources.

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