Criminal justice reform focuses on four areas of the criminal justice system, namely sentencing procedures, police activities, drug policies, re-entry, and the juvenile justice system. Each of these areas holds a place in the history of criminal justice reform that continues today.

Restructuring of Criminal Sentencing
In 2006, an organization conducted a study to determine how many people were within the criminal justice system. The results indicated that there was a five-fold increase over a 20-year period that began in the 1980s. Probing further, the organization found that a good proportion of those in the system were sentenced too severely for their crimes. This leads to overcrowding in the prisons that diminish the possibility for inmates to gain the skills they need to rejoin society.

Review of Police Activities
Excessive force is another area of the criminal justice system that has been under scrutiny for many decades. The focus of efforts to review police activities includes use of excessive force and brutality. Studies have found that people who are of a racial or socioeconomic minority are most likely the victims of excessive force and police brutality.

Drug Policies
As the war on drugs continues in the country, more jurisdictions are reviewing their policies for arrest, conviction, and sentencing. A large proportion of people who are in prisons and jails are convicted of lesser  drug crimes. Reforming drug policies places priority on arresting those  people who are responsible for the country’s drug problem on a larger scale.

Re-entry in criminal justice reform focuses on  the opportunities and programs that assist individuals re-enter society after serving a criminal sentence. Traditionally, this has included probation and parole – but today there is a greater focus on workforce development, career transition programs and education programs. Studies have shown that  people who have served their sentences, benefit from programs and services  that help them develop the skills needed to a make a contribution to society by  securing  high quality employment opportunities.

Juvenile Justice
Research shows that individuals  who commit crimes at an early age need additional support to overcome mistakes and lives a crime-free life. Many of those who go through the juvenile justice system are more likely to continue committing crimes into adulthood because they are not provided with the necessary support.

It is important to take time to learn more about the history of criminal justice reform, and how you can help with reform efforts. I encourage you to learn more so you can contribute to organizations and initiatives in your community that are focused on improving the criminal justice system and improve outcomes for youth.