The nationwide campaign seeks to reform criminal justice policies that have increased incarceration rates dramatically during an era of declining crime rates and widening racial disparities. The nation's adult jail and prison population currently numbers more than 2.2 million people, with one in a hundred adults behind bars — the highest rate in the world. The ACLU aims to cut that number in half by 2020 with the most ambitious effort to end mass incarceration in U.S. history.
The organization will build on the momentum created by state and national advocates, as well as on the analysis of the National Academy of Sciences, which argues that the surest way to lower prison rates is to revise drug enforcement and sentencing laws. Led by Alison Holcomb, the campaign will work to boost awareness of the incarceration crisis by assembling and disclosing state and local data on who is behind bars, for what offenses, and the length of their sentences. The campaign also will select three to five states — including those with the largest prison populations, most egregious sentencing practices, and history of playing a consequential role in presidential elections — for action in 2016, while working to build state capacity in earl primary and battleground states such as Colorado, Florida, Iowa, New Hampshire.
"There are few organizations in the United States in such close alignment with our values and criminal justice reform goals as the ACLU," said OSF president Christopher Stone. "We are confident that our support of the already advanced state-level ACLU operations can truly transform thinking about public safety, move progressive and innovative legislation forward, and restore the trust of communities hit hardest by the overuse and abuse of our criminal justice system."