Criminal Justice Reform
An effective criminal justice system is an essential part of a safe and just society. We must hold those who break the law accountable, but we must also pursue justice in a way that is compassionate, sensible, and fair. If we focus on improving our criminal justice system, we will make our country safer for law enforcement and communities while saving taxpayer money, helping offenders turn their lives around, and reducing the number of future victims.
Ninety-five percent of individuals incarcerated in prisons will be released at some point. These individuals will rejoin our communities, yet our current criminal justice system does little to help them reintegrate in a way that protects neighborhoods and restores individuals. In Georgia, we’ve seen the impact that meaningful reforms can have on the criminal justice system, and I’ve worked in Congress to build on that success.
The Comprehensive Justice and Mental Health Act, which I introduced, became law in 2016 as part of the 21st Century Cures Act. This law is designed to help state and local governments train law enforcement and other first responders to recognize individuals suffering from mental illness and interact with them more safely. It also provides resources to expand mental health and veterans treatment courts, while encouraging greater collaboration among the justice system and community members. The Comprehensive Justice and Mental Health Act recognizes that it doesn’t make sense to use our jails as mental health institutions, and it moves us away from that flawed model.
I’m also committed to efforts to strengthen other aspects of the justice system. States like Georgia and Texas have paved the way for conservative criminal justice reform, which can save money and improve lives. I introduced the Prison Reform and Redemption Act to create a federal prison-wide system for evaluating the risk of every individual prisoner for reoffending and then offering evidence-based resources—like mental health care, vocational skills, substance abuse treatment, and faith-based programs—that make them less likely to reoffend when they are released. I’ve seen the results of similar state-level programs, and thoughtful prison reform works.
By building on proven reform efforts, we can continue to make the United States a safer place.