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Inequality in the U.S. Justice System

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Inequality in the U.S. Justice System


From The Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law

The Brennan Center’s Justice Program seeks to secure our nation’s promise of “equal justice for all” by creating a rational, effective, and fair justice system. Its priority focus is to reduce mass incarceration while keeping down crime. The program melds law, policy, and economics to produce new empirical analyses and innovative policy solutions to advance this critical goal.

America’s criminal justice system is in crisis. It is both inequitable, placing a disproportionate burden on communities of color, and extremely expensive, costing $270 billion a year.

What’s more, our current approach is not necessary to protect public safety. Research conclusively shows that high levels of imprisonment are simply not necessary to protect communities. The Brennan Center has found that around 40 percent of America’s prison population is incarcerated with little public safety justification — in other words, they are behind bars unnecessarily.

Understandably, voters across the political spectrum have lost faith in the fair administration of justice, and the urgency of criminal justice reform continues to be a rare point of bipartisan agreement. Despite this voter consensus — and with some notable exceptions — policymakers generally have been slow to respond.