Criminal Justice & Policing Reform
OverviewReforms to the criminal justice system that promote human dignity, reduce costs, enhance public safety, and make victims whole will lead to an increase in well-being for all.
The Charles Koch Institute works on these six areas of criminal justice and policing reform in order to improve public safety, reduce costs, and respect the dignity of each individual:
- Excessive & Disproportionate Sentencing: Too many people in America go to prison—and for far too long—for low-level, nonviolent crimes. All criminals should be held accountable, but punishments should be proportional to the crime committed.
- Collateral Consequences of Incarceration: Thousands of laws keep people from obtaining jobs and productively re-entering a community once they have served their sentence. After being held accountable, an ex-offender should be allowed to put his or her life back together.
- Overcriminalization: Thousands of ordinary activities are classified as crimes, including shipping lobsters in the wrong kind of container and shampooing hair without a license. Thousands of federal laws and hundreds of thousands of federal regulations carry criminal penalties. We shouldn’t criminalize so many things, and the ultimate criminal sanction—incarceration—should be reserved for truly dangerous offenders.
- Accidental Criminals: Traditionally, a crime consists of a guilty act (actus reus) and a guilty state of mind (mens rea). If the government accuses you of a crime, in most cases it should be the government’s responsibility to prove both. Otherwise, innocent individuals risk becoming accidental criminals.
- Civil Asset Forfeiture: Law enforcement officers can take your property merely because they suspect it relates to a crime. Getting your property returned is difficult, and the seized assets may go directly to a law enforcement agency’s budget. Law enforcement should never have an incentive to police for profit. Asset forfeitures should require a criminal conviction and due process rights.
- Encouraging Peace Officers: Trust between the police and the community would be better fostered if the police were seen as peace officers. Police officers now have equipment and vehicles built for war. The role of policing should be to serve the community, and policies that encourage this are smarter than police militarization.
Our senior scholar on criminal justice & policing reform
Vikrant P. Reddy, senior research fellowReddy previously served as a senior policy analyst at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, where he managed the launch of their national Right on Crime initiative in 2010. He has also worked as a research assistant at the Cato Institute, as a law clerk to the Hon. Gina M. Benavides of the 13th Court of Appeals of Texas, and as an attorney in private practice. He is a member of the State Bar of Texas and an appointee to the executive committee of the Criminal Law Practice Group of the Federalist Society. He is also an appointee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights Texas State Advisory Committee. Reddy graduated from The University of Texas at Austin with a bachelor’s in Plan II honors, economics, and history and earned his law degree at the Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law in Dallas.
From the Blog
By Editorial Team | December 12, 2016
Earlier this year, Virginians sent a clear message about their desire to address flaws in the current criminal justice system, with a majority supporting reducing prison costs and the right for restored citizens to get work certification licenses after being released from prison. This month, the Charles Koch Institute, along with the National Association of […]Read More
By Editorial Team | November 30, 2016
Sir Winston Spencer-Churchill (1874-1965) was a British statesman, historian, and journalist, but he was also an ardent advocate for criminal justice reform. His efforts in the area reflect concerns that are familiar to us today. As he explained to Parliament, “The mood and temper of the public in regard to the treatment of crime and […]Read More
Life After Incarceration: What New Research from Harvard Says About the Impact of the Criminal Justice System
By Editorial Team | November 10, 2016
Each year, 600,000 men and women nationwide return from prison to low-income, inner-city communities. Harlem, in particular, has a high number of individuals who have either experienced incarceration themselves or know someone who has, according to recent data. To consider the challenges these formerly incarcerated individuals face when they return home, the Charles Koch Foundation, […]Read More
By Editorial Team | September 27, 2016
As other states have reformed their criminal justice systems, Tennessee has not kept pace. Tennessee’s corrections expenditures account for 10 percent of the state’s budget, there are more than 20,000 inmates in Tennessee prisons, and 5,000 inmates transition back into society each year. Recently, criminal justice experts considered these facts and discussed how Tennessee could […]Read More
By Editorial Team | September 19, 2016
Floridians overwhelmingly support criminal justice reform, according to a new public opinion survey released by The James Madison Institute and the Charles Koch Institute. “For the past few years as we’ve worked in the criminal justice arena, we have experienced first hand the changing debate on these issues. The poll solidified what we’ve come to […]Read More