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Reform spotlight: a swelling of collective support for change

Any reader of a criminal law blog who might be looking for a ready example of momentum that has been established in the criminal justice administration need focus only upon a single word.

And that is this: reform.

It wasn't that long ago that sharp and rancorous debate divided polar-opposite camps concerning this high-level topic of clear national concern. For decades, the country was centrally influenced by notions fundamental to the so-called War on Crime and War on Drugs.

Perhaps the guiding principle of those tandem philosophies was this: Lock defendants away.

And for a long time.

And for even relatively insignificant offenses. It is an undisputed matter of historical record that more people are incarcerated in the United States -- both in per-capita and actual terms -- than in any other country, with many of those individuals being nonviolent offenders adjudged guilty on first convictions.

That has cost the nation in an incalculable way, in terms of money spent, recidivism unaddressed, reintegration opportunities lost for millions, inequitable outcomes doled out for select groups and more.

Clearly, that is now all realized by many millions of people across the country, with criminal law reform proposals and movements -- broad-based, with support across many groups -- on a clear march and demanding fundamental change.

One recent example comes by way of a letter addressed publicly to the nation's presidential candidates, urging their strong support for material reforms, including less emphasis on incarceration in lieu of diversion programs that lower criminal recidivism and foster social integration for individuals who have done their time.

The letter has received prominent notice in national media outlets. It represents the views of a wide swath of police chiefs, prosecutors and others from across the country who are urgently recommending fundamental changes in the country's criminal justice system.

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