Criminal Justice & Policing Reform

Criminal Justice & Policing Reform

What kind of policing and criminal justice system allows people to live in dignity?

The Challenge

The number of people incarcerated in the United States has ballooned by 500 percent over the last 40 years. Ninety percent of these people will one day leave prison and face the challenge of reintegrating into their communities as productive citizens.

Our Goal

Our communities are safest when the criminal justice system respects human dignity. That means achieving justice for victims as well as ensuring that people leaving prison have opportunities to succeed on the outside. We support reforms that improve communication between police and citizens and that reduce recidivism by removing barriers to opportunity.

Our Focus

We focus on areas that will have the greatest impact:

Sentencing

Too many people go to prison—often for far too long—for low-level, nonviolent crimes. People who break the law should be held accountable, but the punishment should fit the crime.

Second Chances

Thousands of laws erect barriers for those with a criminal record to getting jobs and rejoining their communities with dignity, increasing the likelihood of recidivism.

Overcriminalization

Thousands of seemingly ordinary activities, like shipping lobsters in the wrong kind of container and shampooing hair without a license, are classified as crimes. We shouldn’t criminalize so many things, and jail should be reserved for people who are truly dangerous.

Civil Asset Forfeiture

Law enforcement officers can take your property if they suspect it relates to a crime, even if you’re innocent. Getting your property back is difficult, and the seized assets may go directly to a law enforcement agency’s budget. Policing should be about public safety, not profit.

Policing Practices

Many law enforcement departments are using equipment and tactics from the battlefield. When police are seen as peace officers rather than an occupying force, community trust can grow. This trust and collaboration is important to solving crime and protecting the public.

Rethinking the way we classify and handle property and drug crimes—as many states have done in recent years—can free up funds that are currently used for incarceration. These funds can be spent on better law enforcement and stopping violent crimes before they happen.

Vikrant Reddy, Senior Research Fellow

Learn More

Dive Deeper

Must-read stories from around the web

Criminal Justice: The Real Reasons for Reform

National Review

Common Sense on Crime and Driver’s Licenses

USA Today

How California’s Job Standards Worsen Recidivism

LA Times

Is Medical Marijuana the Solution to America's Spiraling Opioid Crisis?

The Hill

In Conversation: Vikrant Reddy Thinks Conservatives Can Fix the Justice System

MTV News

Dear President Trump: Here’s How to Get Right on Crime

The Marshall Project

Advancing Justice 2017

On Thursday, October 26, please join the Charles Koch Institute for a one-day conference in Washington, DC, to identify the next set of criminal justice reform priorities. The event will showcase a broad coalition of policymakers, academics, think tanks, and community activists who've helped bring us this far.

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