Even as the upcoming midterm elections make for a rocky path to bipartisan reforms, there are plenty of opportunities in 2022 for federal, state, and local leaders to make a more fair and accountable criminal justice system. Here is where real change is likely over the next year.
#1 Policing: Responding to a spike in homicides with evidence-based strategies
We are seeing cities react to the nationwide spike in homicides with a new focus on effective, accountable policing, and major metros across the United States will likely spend 2022 enacting new strategies that can help save lives.
University of Miami Professor Alex Piquero, who sits on the Council on Criminal Justice’s Violent Crime Working Group, has highlighted Dallas as an example of a city that saw its homicide rate fall after implementing evidence-based policies such as focused deterrence, blight abatement, and data-driven policing. Dallas Police Chief Eddie Garcia has underscored the importance of rebuilding with the communities they are sworn to protect and serve.
St. Louis also saw a reduction in homicides amid a shift in local strategies, including community-led violence intervention programs and police reducing low-level enforcement to focus more on violent crimes.
Expect to see more of this from coast to coast. As cities around the country develop and implement new strategies, robust data collection and rigorous evaluations of these efforts can help build the evidence base to better inform policy and practice nationwide.
#2 Pretrial: Bipartisan state-level bail reform
America’s Heartland is leading the way on bipartisan pretrial reform. A coalition from across the political spectrum, including Americans for Prosperity, the ACLU, and Conservatives for Bail Reform, is pushing bail reform legislation in Ohio. Bail reform bills are also moving through the legislatures of Michigan, Utah, and Tennessee. And the groundwork is already being laid in Texas to prepare for the next legislative session in 2023. Meanwhile, Illinois is preparing to implement its first-in-the-nation law to eliminate wealth-based detention, which will go into effect next year.
#3 Fines and Fees: Abolishing juvenile fines and fees
Our criminal justice system collects millions of dollars in fines and fees from youth and their families, posing an often insurmountable financial burden to low-income families. The practice can drown youth in debt and push their families deeper into poverty.
Last year, Debt Free Justice launched a national campaign to eliminate fees and fines on youth and their families. The DFJ campaign achieved key wins in 2021 by passing legislation in Colorado, Louisiana, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas, and Virginia. We expect momentum on this issue to grow and 19 states to introduce bills reforming this practice in 2022.
#4 Community Supervision: Piloting innovative solutions to reduce probation revocations
A quarter of all prison admissions are the result of probation revocations, with half of those admissions stemming from technical violations where no new crime was committed. Last year, the CUNY Institute for State & Local Governance published findings from phase one of the Reducing Revocations Challenge (RRC) identifying what’s driving probation failures across the country.
This year, RRC will kick off the second phase of the challenge where teams in five different jurisdictions pilot targeted solutions to reduce the number of people sent to jail due to probation revocations. Some of the promising strategies include enlisting the help of community advocates to assist supervision officers and focusing on providing incentives for compliance — such as reduced supervision terms — instead of exclusively relying on incarceration as a penalty for violating probation.
#5 Corrections: New standards and practices for the first time in 40 years
One exciting highlight last year was the launch of The Prison and Jail Innovation Lab (PJIL), a policy center aimed at ensuring the safe and humane treatment of people in custody as well as identifying best practices in corrections oversight. Their approach centers on connecting academic researchers, criminal justice practitioners, and policymakers to develop novel strategies that can transform the conditions within prison facilities.
This year, PJIL will be working with Louisiana to revise their jail standards and practices, something that hasn’t been done in over 40 years. When the new standards are released, they are likely to represent a model of how to create and implement research-based prison policies that promote transparency, institute effective oversight mechanisms, and prioritize the health and safety of people in custody.