Thirty changes in criminal justice practices are recommended by a criminal justice reform organization.
The 2022 annual guide on state legislative reforms was released by the nonprofit Prison Policy Initiative (PPI). The reforms could have substantial impact on the criminal justice system, Law360.com reported Dec. 19, 2021.
The PPI report, “Winnable Criminal Justice Reforms in 2022,” identifies legislative proposals that include reducing lengthy prison sentences, allowing juries to include people with criminal convictions; and eliminating cash bail.
These reform measures are intended to help end mass incarceration and lower prison costs, according to Law360.com.
“While many states have taken laudable steps to reduce the number of people serving time for low-level offenses, little has been done to bring relief to people needlessly serving decades in prison,” the report stated.
Among the 30 state legislative reforms, several were highlighted by PPI, such as eliminating mandatory minimum sentences, because sentencing enhancements do little to improve public safety; they only fuel incarceration rates, PPI reported.
California’s passage of Assembly Bill 1245 in April 2021 allows individuals who have served at least 15 years to file petitions directly to the court for reduction of their sentence.
Ending cash bail is another targeted legislative reform cited by PPI. These policies require people who face criminal charges to pay money for pretrial release. Such policies add pressure on innocent people to accept plea bargains because they cannot afford bail.
The report explained how just a few days in jail can destabilize peoples’ lives by the loss of employment, housing and child custody.
In January 2021, Illinois passed the Pretrial Fairness Act, which ended cash bail and narrowed pretrial detention criteria.
“When this legislation takes effect, it will make roughly 80% of people arrested in Cook County (Chicago) each year ineligible for pretrial detention,” PPI stated.
Lack of jury diversity is an obvious target for reform. PPI suggested that states should eliminate policies prohibiting people with criminal histories, or sometimes simply accused of crimes, from jury service. PPI reasoned that such laws reduce jury diversity by disproportionately excluding Black and Latinx people, and often bans them from jury service forever.
“These laws bar more than 20 million people from jury service,” PPI reported.
The report highlighted the passage of H.B. 84, a Louisiana bill that would terminate the state’s lifetime ban on jury service for individuals who are off parole or probation after five years and restore the right to serve on a jury.