In recent sessions, state lawmakers have enacted important criminal-justice reforms in response to DNA exonerations. What further justice reforms should the Legislature put on its to-do list?
Criminal justice reform is clearly an area where both parties can work to get things done. The areas with the most consensus to date appear to be raising the juvenile court jurisdiction age, establishing drug courts for treatment and rehabilitation, implementing graduated sanctions for those on parole and probation, and eliminating civil asset forfeiture. Beyond these specific measures, I think that the sea change on these issues provides opportunities to open a dialogue on broader structural change in other areas. Here we see that our collective politics moved beyond the wedge messaging of “tough” or “soft on crime” or short term “social” program cost, and moved toward a dialogue that considered long term financial and human costs. This shift toward civilization building solutions is a promising model to build on. As we face greater structural challenges, facilitating these types of conversations that contemplate multi-dimensional costs, will be important. Finally, as it relates to the specific populations effected positively by criminal justice reform, as these individuals are given the opportunity to become productive members of our society, it will be increasingly important to address the structural issues in our government and economic systems to make those employment endeavors possible.