Capital Commentary is the weekly current-affairs publication of CPJ, written to encourage the pursuit of public justice.

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This Week’s Capital Commentary

Jennifer E. Walsh

Article Summary: 

As crime rates are approximately half of what they once were twenty-five years ago, some lawmakers are concerned that the system has become too tough. The Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that the number of people behind bars at the local, state, or federal level has increased by nearly a million people. Additionally, lawmakers are concerned that the impact on racial and ethnic minority communities has been too severe. Today, one in thirty-six Americans is under some form of penal supervision. As a result, lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle are calling for a new wave of criminal justice reform. Some have called for an outright repeal of get-tough sentencing laws, while others have proposed softening the penalties for many non-violent offenses.

But simply reversing course may not be the best answer. In this article, Jennifer Walsh argues that we should consider each policy reform suggestion through the lens of history and with an eye to its impact on individuals, communities, and on society as a whole. Moreover, we should consider how an overreliance on the criminal justice system to address societal ills might also diminish the influence of positive social institutions, such as families, churches, and schools over time.

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Capital Commentary Archive

Title
Author
Publication Date
Topic

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