What can I do?

Join The Nation and the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law in calling on America’s major political parties to end the era of mass incarceration.

So far, both have fallen short. Even Democratic party platforms haven’t merely been silent; they have actually called for policies creating more imprisonment.

We’re asking both sides to boldly break with past platforms, and formally add criminal-justice reform as a key pillar during party conventions this presidential election year.

To Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Reince Priebus:

The statistics are stark: while the United States has 5 percent of the world’s people, we are responsible for a quarter of its prisoners.

Both political parties have begun to wake up to the need to end the era of mass incarceration, and Congress and the states have made great strides. But while this widespread attention is promising, many party leaders have been largely mum. And criminal justice reform has still never been cemented as a national priority of our two major political parties—in fact, past platforms have championed tougher punishments and the construction of more prisons.

In order to demonstrate your commitment to this 21st century civil rights struggle, we urge you to boldly break with past platforms, and formally add criminal justice reform as a key pillar during party conventions this presidential election year.

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What’s Going On?

The statistics are stark: The United States has 5 percent of the world’s people, but 25 percent of its prisoners. We claim to be the leader of the free world, yet are responsible for a quarter of the global imprisoned population.

Both political parties have begun to wake up to this 21st-century civil-rights struggle, making America’s mass incarceration problem a key issue on the campaign trail. The Republican National Committee recently passed a resolution prioritizing reform. Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have debated the topic extensively.

This widespread attention is promising—but much more must be done to actually fix the problem.

Congress and states have made great strides. Surprisingly, today’s movement to end mass incarceration has largely been led by Republicans. GOP senators are currently negotiating a bill to change draconian sentencing laws, though Mitch McConnell could still block reform. In the states, Republican governors have championed laws to reduce prison populations.

A few Democrats, such as Cory Booker, Dick Durbin, and Patrick Leahy, have stepped up. But the senior party leadership and other influential voices—Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Elizabeth Warren, and Debbie Wasserman Schultz—have largely been mum.

Criminal-justice reform has never been cemented as a national priority of our two major political parties. In fact, the parties have previously championed tougher punishments for even nonviolent offenders and lauded federal funds directed toward prison construction. That type of thinking is what made us the world’s number-one jailer.

Read More

Inimai Chettiar, the director of the Justice Program at the Brennan Center, and Ames Grawert, a counsel in the program, penned an op-ed in The Nation where they examine how Republicans have largely taken the lead on reform. Read more here.