Data Analysis Interagency Collaboration Racial Disparities January 31, 2019

The Challenge of Criminal Justice Reform

Bruce Western, Justice Lab, Columbia University

After three decades of growth in the U.S. incarceration rate, we have entered a period of criminal justice reform. However, efforts to reverse mass incarceration need to address the social conditions of poverty, racial inequality, and violence in which punitive criminal justice policy has expanded. Efforts that aim only to reduce prison populations, or neglect the harsh socioeconomic conditions in poor communities of color, will fail to sustainably reduce the burdens of over-imprisonment. A new, socially-integrative, vision of community health and economic flourishing is the best way to respond to the problem of violence in contexts of poverty and racial injustice.