Criminal Justice System Improvements
The ABA plays a critical role in working with Congress to enact effective criminal laws that respect individual liberties and protect the integrity of our justice system. Of great concern to the Association is the ever-expanding prison population, which has increased twelve-fold since 1980. The United States has the highest incarceration rate and largest prison population in the world. The ABA, through the dedicated work of the Justice Kennedy Commission and the Commission on Effective Criminal Sanctions, has adopted a comprehensive blueprint for sentencing and corrections reform that has served as the basis of much of the Association’s criminal justice advocacy with Congress and the Administration since 2004. We anticipate that during the 113th Congress, national law enforcement initiatives that rely on the steady expansion of federal criminal laws, mandatory minimum sentencing and incarceration will face increased scrutiny with regard to their cost and effectiveness.
In particular, the ABA urges a balance between public safety and protection of our justice system and individual liberties. The Association opposes mandatory minimum sentences and supports the broad expansion of alternatives to incarceration, particularly for nonviolent offenses. We supports federal funding for indigent defense representation in criminal cases and urges stronger federal habeas corpus review of state convictions and resources to assure capital defendants have representation at trial and on appeal. The Association supports legislation to: reauthorize the Second Chance Act; to ensure that convictions’ collateral sanctions are not an undue barrier to jobs, housing, voting or privacy; and to address racial and ethnic disparities in the justice system. The ABA further supports gun violence prevention legislation consistent with the Second Amendment right ot bear arms.