This year, we’ve expanded our annual guide on state legislative reforms that we think are ripe for victory. While this briefing is not intended to be a comprehensive platform, we’ve curated this list to offer policymakers and advocates straightforward solutions that would have the greatest impacts without further investments in the carceral system and point to policy reforms that have gained momentum in the past year. We have focused especially on those reforms that would reduce the number of people needlessly confined in prisons and jails. And for the first time, we have added some talking points and resources that can be used to push back when carve-outs to criminal justice reforms (that is, categorical exclusions of people who would benefit from reforms) are being discussed.

Because each state’s criminal legal system varies so much — from law and procedures, the data collected, and even how the same words are defined — it can be difficult to apply lessons from other states to the same problem in one’s own. This guide is designed to facilitate the sharing of ideas and information across states. That said, while we point to multiple bills, model legislation, and regulations in this document, we also recognize that many of these examples reflect compromise and could be strengthened or made more comprehensive. This information is intended to serve as a resource as you determine which problems are a priority in your state and which lessons from elsewhere are most useful.

Readers should also note that we made a conscious choice to not include critical reforms that are unique to just a few states, or important reforms for which we don’t yet have enough useful resources to be helpful to most states. But this guide grows and evolves each year, so we welcome ideas and resources from other advocates and state legislators.

  • Expand alternative to criminal justice system responses to social problems
  • Reduce the number of people entering the “revolving doors” of jails and prisons
  • Improve sentencing structures and release processes to encourage timely and successful releases from prison
  • Reduce the footprint of probation and parole systems and support success on supervision
  • Protect incarcerated people and families from exploitation by private contractors
  • Promote physical and mental health among incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people
  • Give all communities equal voice in how our justice system works
  • Eliminate relics of the harmful and racist “war on drugs”

Read the full article about criminal justice reform in 2022 by Naila Awan at Prison Policy Initiative