For anyone seeking a criminal justice degree online, criminal justice reform is likely an important issue as it relates to your future career. Always hotly contested in the political arena, criminal justice reform is an issue about which people mostly seem to have strong opinions, one way or another.
In recent years, criminal justice reform has focused on equal rights, saving money for state and federal governments, and doing something positive about the overwhelmingly high incarceration rates in many US prisons. As with any type of reform, it is a learning process, and new plans do not always work out for the better. Fortunately, there have been many positive advances in criminal justice in recent years, which benefit government bodies, taxpayers, and individuals who have been wrongly incarcerated or unfairly sentenced.
- In recent years, prison reform has become an area in which solid, bipartisan work has been done. The reasoning is simple – with a more efficient, effective prison system, everybody benefits. In the past, prison finances were not scrutinized in the same way as the finances of other government institutions, which often led to poor budget planning, overspending and lack of value. One of the simplest changes made has been to pay more attention to the budgets of individual prisons, and institute fiscal change where it’s needed.
- Another key is that state and federal government have been seeking ways to lower the population of incarcerated people in the United States, reserving costly prison beds for violent and dangerous offenders, while instituting programs for the rehabilitation of non-violent offenders. Many states are also changing drug possession laws, in order to stop spending money imprisoning people arrested on smaller possession charges, devoting those saved funds going after drug suppliers, and providing more effective, budget-conscious rehabilitation programs for addicts. This is resulting in more actual rehabilitation, and less money spent in both the short and long term.
Changes in Sentencing
It was long an unfortunate reality that certain minority groups were targeted and sentenced more harshly than others, for similar crimes. The Fair Sentencing Act has been a major step toward righting that wrong, and handing down only the sentence that is deserved based on the crime an offender committed, and nothing else. In 2011, the act was also applied retroactively, so that incarcerated individuals who received an unfair sentence in the past could challenge that sentence under current rules. Though this is not necessarily a way to save money, it is an important step in providing fair social justice for all groups of people.
Improved Intervention and Post-Prison Options
Two of the most effective ways to reduce costs related to criminal justice are to provide early-intervention options that help steer misguided people back onto the right path prior to major criminal issues, and programs to aid people in assimilation after prison terms. Early-intervention can work through drug court, rehab, educational programs and much more to give people a second chance. By providing post-prison programs for criminals, like job placement assistance and supervised living, the criminal justice system gives those people a better chance of staying out of prison in the future.