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A New Year: What 2018 Means

With the stroke of midnight on December 31st we now enter a new year, one filled with a renewed sense of vision and the reality of challenges that will inevitably face us. We are looking to the future positively, and we believe there is good cause to be optimistic in 2018. As an advocate for reform, the Justice and Accountability Center of Louisiana (JAC) sees changes in both Baton Rouge and Washington D.C. as proof that our work and the work of other criminal justice focused non-profits is playing a vital role in the decriminalization and de-institutionalization of people, their families, and the communities they live in.

2017 was a big year in promoting a more just and equal vision across the country and in Louisiana. Standing on a platform of ending cash bail programs and mass incarceration, Philadelphia brought in revolution by electing a district attorney with a taste for reform that is both progressive and fiscally sound. In another instance, congressional bipartisanship birthed a bill entitled The Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2017 and is aimed at reducing sentencing disparities among non-violent drug offenders and drawing back the prosecutorial power of federal attorneys.

Even here at home in Louisiana, criminal justice reform has found fertile ground with a new program that stands to lower the state’s prison population by over 10% and save nearly $100 million dollars over the next decade. These efforts – largely the product of a shifting narrative on “what works” – demonstrates that people at all levels of government are looking for more humane and cost-effective solutions to the social effects of crime. JAC welcomes these changes. Going into 2018, we see the distribution of information as among the greatest obstacles; information that is backed with credible sourcing and solid science. JAC supports efforts to create a foundation for reform where data-informed discussion can serve as the basis for reform.

The Problem

We recognize the criminal justice system as being broken, one failing to satisfy its most basic aims to enhance public safety. The consequences of an ineffectual system have left communities in tatters, hundreds of thousands of non-violent offenders under punitive state sanction, and cost the every-day taxpayer untold amounts of money with little return on their investments. The past three decades of punitive corrections and the persisting legacy of a failed drug war has left the system bloated, over expanded and ineffective at fulfilling its most central promise to reduce crime. In this era of hindsight, we have a unique opportunity and a moral obligation to shift the direction by which criminal justice agencies operate. JAC actively aims for solutions to injustice and explores ways to help those marginalized and left vulnerable by this broken system.

How We Fix It

This year JAC is committing itself to the dissemination of methodologically-sound, empirically-driven content; material that is both insightful on contemporary happenings but also offers readers information about topics we believe are important to our mission to drive reform. We will approach the subjects we cover by offering a non-partisan perspective that acknowledges the duality of criminal justice problems and recognizes the humanity of all people. We see this best done through the distribution of information. We are looking to build the vehicle for more informed decision-making and dialogue amongst a multitude of stakeholders. If we wish to cultivate individual and community-level change, it is imperative that a forum be provided to facilitate conversation and inspire action with and through partners.

Through this blog, newsletters, and social media, we will be working to introduce readers to regular commentary on policy developments both at the state and federal levels. Material will cover the facts and offer an objective intepretation of how best to develop effective and functional solutions. It is by driving the discussion that we can build support for wider change and offer a more sustainable future. Stay tuned and Happy New Year!

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