Criminal Justice


  • Use of Mercenaries as a Means of Violating Human Rights and Impeding the Exercise of the Right of Peoples to Self Determination

    April 2017

    In April of 2017, the ACLU submitted a written statement to the United Nations Working Group on the Use of Mercenaries as a Means of Violating Human Rights and Impeding the Exercise of the Right of Peoples to Self Determination. 

    This article includes a large portion of that written statement. It begins by looking at the history of private prisons or "for-profit incarceration" as well as the human rights records of those institutions. "The United States’ heavy federal reliance on private prisons has enriched private prison investors while taking a terrible human toll."

    The ACLU looks specifically at the lack of accountability for private prisons, "private-prison companies exercise State-like privileges of force and coercion without being subject to the same accountability and oversight mechanisms as State actors." The need for more oversight, occupancy guarantees "which require the government to either provide a certain number of prisoners on a daily basis or pay as if the empty prison beds were filled." insufficient grievance mechanisms for prisoners, the influence of lobbying, and limited legal relief for people harmed by private-prison contractors.

    Read More
  • Facts About The Death Penalty

    March 2017

    There have been 1448 executions in the United States since 1976. 

    This fact sheet covers some key facts and figures about the death penalty, from which 31 states have the death penalty, to the discrepancies between races of the defendants who are executed and the race of the victims in death penalty cases. It specifically looks at racial discrepancies within the criminal justice system overall and within certain states. 

    DeathPenalty Race Facts

    Read More
  • Trends In U.S. Corrections

    March 2017

    This fact sheet gives an overview into statistics in the U.S. Corrections system.

    It begins with a broad overview of the U.S. Federal prison population which has increased dramatically since the 70's and incarceration rates in the U.S. (670 per 100,000) compared to other countries, the country with the next highest incarceration rate is Russia (439 per 100,000.) "The United States is the world's leader in incarceration with 2.2 million people currently in the nation's prisons and jails."

    The fact sheet then looks at the prison population by offense - where almost half of individuals in the federal prison population are there due to a drug related offense.  It also delves into the female prison population, racial disparities in the prison system, youths in prison, felony disenfranchisement by state, and the increase in life sentences.

    Trends in US Corrections IMAGE

    Read More
  • Felon Voting Rights

    September 2016

    Whether the U.S. should allow individuals convicted of crimes to vote is a contentious topic in American politics. This article delves into the laws in each state that address whether and when felons can vote.

    Felon Voting Rights

    Read More
  • Review of the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ Monitoring of Contract Prisons

    August 2016

    In 1997 the Bureau of Prisons started contracting privately operated institutions (private prisons/contract prisons.)"As of December 2015, contract prisons housed roughly 22,660 of these federal inmates, or approximately 12 percent of the BOP’s total inmate population." This article is the executive summary taken from a Bureau of Prisons report.

    The report finds that:

    • In a majority of the categories  examined, contract prisons incurred more safety and security incidents per capita than comparable BOP institutions.

    • With the exception of fewer incidents of positive drug tests and sexual misconduct, the contract prisons had more incidents per capita than the BOP institutions in all of the other categories of data we examined. For example, the contract prisons confiscated eight times as many contraband cell phones annually on average as the BOP institutions. Contract prisons also had higher rates of assaults, both by inmates on other inmates and by inmates on staff.

    • The three contract prisons we visited were all cited by the BOP for one or more safety and security deficiencies, including administrative infractions

    • Two of the three contract prisons we visited were improperly housing new inmates in Special Housing Units, which are normally used for disciplinary or administrative segregation, until beds became available in general population housing.

    The report concludes that the Bureau of Prisons needs to reevaluate how it monitors contract prisons in order to ensure the safety of inmates, and the prisons' compliance with the law.

    Read More
  • The Price We Pay: Economic Costs of Barriers to Employment for Former Prisoners and People Convicted of Felonies

    June 2016

    Despite modest declines in recent years, the large and decades-long blossoming of the prison population ensure that it will take many years before the United States sees a corresponding decrease in the number of former prisoners. Using data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), this report estimates that there were between 14 and 15.8 million working-age people with felony convictions in 2014, of whom between 6.1 and 6.9 million were former prisoners.

    Prior research has shown the adverse impact that time in prison or a felony conviction can have on a person’s employment prospects. In addition to the stigma attached to a criminal record, these impacts can include the erosion of basic job skills, disruption of formal education, and the loss of social networks that can improve job-finding prospects. Those with felony convictions also face legal restrictions that lock them out of many government jobs and licensed professions.

    Assuming a mid-range 12 percentage-point employment penalty for this population, this report finds that there was a 0.9 to 1.0 percentage-point reduction in the overall employment rate in 2014, equivalent to the loss of 1.7 to 1.9 million workers. In terms of the cost to the economy as a whole, this suggests a loss of about $78 to $87 billion in annual GDP. Some highlights of this study include:

    • Between 6.0 and 6.7 percent of the male working-age population were former prisoners, while between 13.6 and 15.3 percent were people with felony convictions.

    • Employment effects were larger for men than women, with a 1.6 to 1.8 percentage-point decline in the employment rate of men and a 0.12 to 0.14 decline for women.

    • Among men, those with less than a high school degree experienced much larger employment rate declines than their college-educated peers, with a drop of 7.3 to 8.2 percentage points in the employment rates of those without a high school degree and a decline of 0.4 to 0.5 percentage points for those with college experience.

    • Black men suffered a 4.7 to 5.4 percentage-point reduction in their employment rate, while the equivalent for Latino men was between 1.4 and 1.6 percentage points, and for white men it was 1.1 to 1.3 percentage points.

    Read More
  • No More Fear: It’s Time To Reform Policing In Baltimore

    October 2015

    In this article, Ben Jealous looks at a specific encounter that an African American woman, Ashley Overbey, had with the police in Baltimore. He uses it as an example of why the police system in this country, and particularly in Baltimore, needs to be changed. 

    Jealous points to a report released by grassroots activists and community organizations in Baltimore that suggests six reforms for policing in Baltimore:

    1) Fire police officers who have demonstrated corruption or unnecessary violence

    2) Remove the “gag order” on victims of police misconduct that silenced Ashley Overbey

    3) Speed up the distribution of body cameras

    4) Promote community policing; publish all police department policies online

    5) Improve de-escalation training

    Jealous uses Cincinnati as an example that this sort of reform can happen. "In response to community demands, the department shifted to a community-policing model, encouraged officers to interact more with community members, started tracking officers who received an abnormal number of complaints and took steps to improve transparency." He states that "Over the next 15 years, Cincinnati saw a 69 percent drop in police use-of-force incidents, a 42 percent drop in citizen complaints and a 56 percent drop in injuries experienced by citizens during encounters with police. Importantly, violent crime dropped from a high of 4,137 incidents in the year after Timothy Thomas’ death to 2,352 incidents in 2014."

    Read More