Criminal Justice Reform

Across the country inequities in our justice system further disadvantage low-wage workers, particularly people of color.  Even for the most minor infractions, fees, fines and unpaid bail can result in long jail stays without judicial recourse, exacerbated by the loss of income and employment.  Reentry into the job market after a jail or prison term is challenging under the best circumstances.  EARN partners document how criminal justice dysfunction undermines the prospects of thousands and suggest policies that can open pathway improvements in the economic prospects—and therefore the long-term economic stability—of formerly incarcerated people and their families.

Publications

A War on Us: How Much New Jersey Spends Enforcing the War on Drugs

This report highlights state budget spending dedicated over the past decade to arrest, prosecute, and incarcerate residents for drug war violations. This analysis is contextualized with the racist origins of drug war policies, comparisons of New Jersey’s drug war spending to spending on public health, and the stories of residents directly harmed by the drug war.

First In Line: Why the District Must Take a Reparative Approach to Recreational Cannabis Policy for Black and Brown Communities

This new Council Period, DC policymakers can continue advancements in racial equity (as envisioned in the Racial Equity Achieves Results Amendment Act of 2020) and help build a just economic recovery with recreational cannabis policy. DC’s Black and brown communities are still enduring the harmful effects of past policies that penalized cannabis, and nationally, about 80 percent of people incarcerated for a federal drug offense are Black or Latino. Legalizing the sale of recreational cannabis in a reparative way would allow these communities to achieve justice and build wealth. While the recreational sale of cannabis is still illegal in DC, the office of the DC Attorney General concluded that The District can proceed with legislative hearings on regulating the sale of recreational cannabis despite ongoing congressional interference. The new Democratic-led Senate could also help usher in legislative changes that affirm DC’s right to self-determination in setting recreational cannabis regulation.

Breaking barriers: Issue 1 could put Ohioans back to work

The consequences of a criminal conviction extend far beyond the sentence imposed in court. Ohio’s legislature and its administrative bodies have constructed an array of legal restrictions, called collateral sanctions, that can limit access to housing, licensing and jobs. Policy Matters Ohio has found that collateral sanctions limit or bar access to one in four Ohio jobs and contribute to $3.4 billion in foregone wages each year. For Ohioans whose highest conviction is for a drug possession charge, relief could come on November’s ballot, in the form of Issue 1.

Literature review: Incarceration hurts communities

In Ohio, many people are in prison either for violating probation in ways that are not themselves a crime, or for possessing or using drugs. Keeping them in prison is expensive and drains resources for other needs like education, health care or job training. It is also extremely costly to Ohio families, Ohio communities, and the Ohio economy.