While we were finalizing the policy recommendations in this report, our country began battling an unprecedented health crisis. The coronavirus pandemic has shined a spotlight on the size of America's incarcerated and justice-involved population, illuminating both the extreme vulnerability of those held behind bars and how our prison population impacts our broader communities. This public health emergency has required politicians and those who manage our criminal justice systems to rapidly reevaluate how many of those who are incarcerated can be safely released, how police andprosecutors can best serve their communities, and how to safely reduce the size of the justice system overall.
Even before the outbreak, the United States stood at a crossroads on criminal justice reform. While some of our leaders have continued to use fear of crime to advocate for policy, many advocates, policymakers, and law enforcement officials from all parts of the country — and across the political spectrum — have realized that certain tough-on-crime policies of the 1990s and 2000s led to unintended consequences, such as the unnecessary incarceration of thousands, high rates of recidivism, and decreased confidence in law enforcement. Ultimately, these challenges risk making our communities, including our law enforcement and correctional officers, less safe.