It's Time For Our Nation To Be Smart on Crime

Smart on Crime: Recommendations for the Administration and Congress provides the 112th Congress and the Obama administration with analysis of the problems plaguing our state and federal criminal justice systems and a series of recommendations to address these failures.  The report examines the entire criminal justice system, from the creation of new criminal laws to ex-offenders’ reentry into communities after serving their sentences.  Our comprehensive recommendations range from helping to restore and empower victims to identifying ways to protect the rights of the accused. 

Due to the undeniable human costs and the overwhelming fiscal costs, Americans from diverse political perspectives--particularly professionals with experience in all aspects of the criminal justice system--recognize that the system fails too many, costs too much, and helps too few. Smart on Crime provides the most promising recommendations for resolving our nation’s criminal justice crisis.

Leading Criminal Justice Experts Share Insights  

Several Smart on Crime report contributors discussed America’s broken criminal justice system and shared their hopes for concrete reform. We invite you to hear what some of the nation’s leading experts have to say about a system of justice that they are passionate about—in their own words. 

Click on Part One, Part Two, and Part Three to view the video-taped interviews.

Part One
Introduction: Virginia Sloan, The Constitution Project
Asset Forfeiture: Scott Bullock, Institute for Justice
Forensics:  Sara Chu, The Innocence Project
Innocence Issues: Nicole Harris, The Innocence Project
Part Two
Indigent Defense: Christopher Durocher, The Constitution Project
Juvenile Justice:  Neelum Arya, Campaign for Youth Justice
Federal Sentencing: Jennifer Seltzer Stitt, FAMM
Death Penalty: Christopher Durocher, The Constitution Project
Part Three
Prison Reform: Amy Fettig, ACLU
Pardons & Clemency: Margaret Love, Law Office of Margaret Love
Re-entry: Mark O’Brien, Legal Action Center

Cost-Effective Solutions

Americans depend on the criminal justice system to maintain our safety and security. We expect the system to effectively deter crime and punish offenders, and rehabilitate those who have served their sentences. We also demand that it treat victims and their families with compassion and provide justice and safety for all Americans. We insist that it be fair, reliable and accurate.  Yet, too frequently, these laudable—but daunting—goals go unmet. 

Central to our mission is offering recommendations that achieve these goals, while reflecting the economic realities and acknowledging the new priority of return on investment. Today, budget shortfalls and economic distress are plaguing states and placing greater burdens on the federal government.  States are confronting budget crises that threaten all facets of the criminal justice system, including courts, prisons, police departments, prosecutors, and public defenders.

To effectively tackle these challenges, we must abandon heated rhetoric and explore policies based not on ideology, but on evidence. We must come together to forge a system that works for everyone.  For this reason, Smart on Crime incorporates cost-effective, evidence-based solutions to address the worst problems in our system.

Principles of Reform

Embodied in Smart on Crime are five basic principles that Congress, the Administration, and the judiciary should always consider when contemplating improvements to the criminal justice system.  These principles include:

Fair — The criminal justice system should provide access to all safeguards the U.S. Constitution, state and federal laws, and common sense, afford.

Accurate — Safeguards should ensure that law enforcement policies and practices employed to investigate, charge, and prosecute individuals are appropriate and accurate.

Effective — Criminal sanctions should increase public safety and regulate conduct that truly rises to a level of wrongfulness that justifies its criminalization.

Proven — All strategies and practices that the criminal justice system employs should meet evidence-based or, when possible, scientific standards of effectiveness.

Cost-Efficient — While justice cannot be reduced to dollars and cents on a balance sheet, any changes to the system must be considered with concern for cost efficiency.