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Criminal Justice Reform

The United States is the world's leader in incarceration with 2.3 million people currently in the nation's prisons or jails -- a 500% increase over the past thirty years. These trends have resulted in prison overcrowding and state governments being overwhelmed by the burden of funding a rapidly expanding penal system, despite increasing evidence that large-scale incarceration is not the most effective means of achieving public safety.

(Source: The Sentencing Project)


1. Urge your Senator to support S. 1231, the Second Chance Reauthorization Act. The bill will reauthorize funding for important reentry programs, expand good time, create an earned time program; and expand the Elderly and Family Reunification for Certain Nonviolent Offenders Pilot Program. Please write your U.S. senators today in support of the bill.

2. Encourage your Representative to become a co-sponsor of the Major Drug Trafficking Prosecution Act of 2011 (H.R. 2303).

H.R. 2303 would permit courts to consider each drug defendant individually and sentence the defendant according to his or her culpability and the severity of the offense and would eliminate one-size-fits-all mandatory minimum drug sentences.

3. Ask your Senator to support S. 306, the National Criminal Justice Commission Act of 2011, which would create a blue ribbon commission to conduct an 18-month, top-to-bottom review of the nation's entire criminal justice system and offer concrete recommendations for reform.


1. Families Against Mandatory Minimums

FAMM fights for state and federal sentencing reform, and mobilizes thousands of individuals and families whose lives are adversely affected by unjust sentences to work constructively for change.

2. SPAN, Inc.

SPAN, Inc. supports an end to mandatory sentences, increasing community-based programs' presence in correctional institutions, and increased opportunities that assist individuals to recover from incarceration and reduce recidivism.

3. The Sentencing Project

The Sentencing Project is a national organization working for a fair and effective criminal justice system by promoting reforms in sentencing law and practice, and alternatives to incarceration.

4. Ex-Prisoners and Prisoners Organizing for Community Advancement (EPOCA)

Worcester, MA - EPOCA is made up of ex-prisoners and current prisoners, along with allies, friends and family, working together to create resources and opportunities for those who have paid their debt to society.


The United States imprisons the highest percentage of its population in the world. 1 in 100 U.S. adults are now in prison or on parole, and most of them are nonviolent offenders. Before becoming an advocate for people trapped in the criminal justice system desperately in need of reform, it is important to educate yourself on the issue.

1. Read The New Yorker's piece, "The Caging of America," on why the United States locks up so many people.

2. Watch this PBS video about mass incarceration in the United States and learn about the lives of people affected by an unjust criminal justice system.

3. Read this recent Huffington Post article about racial disparity and mandatory minimums by Julie Stewart of FAMM.

4. Read Atul Gawande's article about why solitary confinment constitutes torture.

5. For resources and information about sentencing reform in Massachusetts, visit FAMM's page.