An “unusual bipartisan consensus” has emerged among policymakers in Washington on the need to overhaul the criminal justice system, reports NPR. President Obama has called for reforms, presidential candidates from both political parties are discussing ways to reduce the prison population, and members of Congress are negotiating on legislation to address the issue. But some of the proposals focus more on back-end reforms that would allow some people to be released early, rather than changing sentencing laws to send fewer people to prison in the first place.
“We have to think big right now,” says Marc Mauer of The Sentencing Project, a nonprofit working to change sentencing laws and seek alternatives to incarceration. “Our sentencing policies have become so excessive that tinkering around the edges is not going to get us very far.”
Mauer says if Congress wants to help restore minorities’ trust in police, it should go big on sentencing reform.
“Half the people in federal prison are there for a drug offense, a substantial majority of those are African-American or Latino,” Mauer says. “All the evidence we have shows that the war on drugs has had an unwarranted, disproportionate racial effect and there’s nothing we could do that would help to reverse that more than substantial sentencing reform across the board.”
Listen to the story below, or read more on NPR.