For the first time in decades, the nation may be on the verge of a wide-open debate on criminal justice policy. Lawmakers in both parties have introduced bills on sentencing reform. The Smarter Sentencing Act would decrease corrections costs by reducing mandatory minimum penalties for drug offenses. The Corrections Act would allow some prisoners to earn early release and reduce the likelihood of recidivism.
Unfortunately, perhaps no area of public policy is more warped by misconceptions than criminal justice. National and local policy is often made on the basis of anecdotes and rarely are hard data used to inform decision-making. Moreover, policies set decades ago, though outdated, are still in effect today.
Criminal justice reform should prioritize protecting public safety while reducing our world-high incarcerated population. Before the nation dives into a new debate about how to accomplish these goals, there are four key misconceptions that should be corrected.