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Toward a More Perfect Union: Bringing Criminal Justice Reform to Our Communities

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The United States is the world’s leader in incarceration, with 2.2 million people currently in the nation’s prisons or jails. Mass incarceration and overcriminalization have particularly affected communities of color, which make up more than 60 percent of the population behind bars. And nationally, 70 million and 100 million—or one in three Americans—now have a criminal record, which can serve as a barrier to many of the basic building blocks of economic security and mobility, such as employment and housing. These trends have become major drivers of poverty; if not for mass incarceration and the criminal records that can haunt people for decades thereafter, our nation’s poverty rate would have dropped by one-fifth between 1980 and 2004. Recent events in cities across the nation have highlighted the lack of opportunity, inequities, and challenges confronting many of our communities, raised serious questions about police practices, and helped fuel the need for comprehensive criminal justice reform.

Please join the Center for American Progress and PICO National Network for a discussion of how we can begin to reverse the trend of overcriminalization of people of color and address its lasting consequences, including reforming policing practices and removing barriers to opportunity for people with criminal records.