With one of the highest incarceration rates in the world, the U.S. prison system is in desperate need of reform. Issues of overcrowding, the school-to-prison pipeline, and racial disparity in sentencing dominate headlines and point to serious underlying problems with American criminal justice. Though these institutional flaws are becoming widely recognized, and legislators across ideological lines are attempting to enact reforms many barriers to change remain.
On August 28, 2017, Brookings convened a forum focused on the need for criminal justice reform and explored possible alternatives to the existing system. In light of the current political climate and policies adopted by the Department of Justice, questions around sentencing guidelines and recidivism reduction are more urgent than ever. Are the financial burdens of large prison populations worth the cost? How can alternative sentences—from community service to house arrest—be used to deal with nonviolent offenders in a fair and equitable way?
The forum began with a gubernatorial perspective on reform measures, which was followed by a panel discussion. After the session, panelists took questions from the audience.