Is America’s criminal justice system broken? If so, what are the best methods for reforming it?
Though we have the highest incarceration rate of any major country, it is far from clear that Americans are the world’s most criminal people. Instead, it may well be that we have done something with our criminal justice system that Americans have always excelled at, which is to take a complex process—in this case transforming people from presumptively innocent citizens to convicts—and made it very cheap and very efficient. But have we done so at the expense of our stated constitutional commitments?
An array of policies and practices, from civil forfeiture, to coercive plea bargaining, to near-zero accountability for law enforcement, suggest that the answer may well be yes. In recent years, support for reform was building across the political and ideological spectrum, which included President Obama. But the first months of the Trump administration have confirmed that criminal justice will remain a contentious issue. Does an appetite for reform still exist in the current environment?
Clark Neily, vice president for criminal justice, joined Cato in June to lead the Institute’s efforts in this area. He will join us to examine these issues and describe his strategy for driving positive change in the criminal justice system. Your questions and thoughts will drive the conversation, and Clark looks forward to a thought-provoking discussion.