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A growing bipartisan consensus at the local, state, and federal levels holds that the American criminal justice system needs to be reimagined. Incarceration rates have expanded at an exponential rate, without corresponding public safety outcomes. Indeed, in the effort to keep our communities safe, our criminal justice policies and practices often infringe upon human dignity, diminish social trust, and waste government resources. We criminalize blameless conduct. We over-punish those who commit low-level, nonviolent crimes. We struggle to rehabilitate or reintegrate prisoners into their communities. We ignore the rights and voices of crime victims. And we police in a manner that all too often weakens the fundamental bond between community and law-enforcement.
The Academy for Justice brings a scholarly light to bear on these problems with the hope of illuminating a path toward a more equitable, humane, and fiscally responsible criminal justice system. The Academy envisions a criminal justice system where actual practices correspond with best practices, and policy decisions are based on data and evidence, rather than raw politics or mere rhetoric. We are committed to the belief that criminal justice reform is not–and should not be–a partisan issue and that a well-functioning criminal justice system benefits victims, defendants, and society at large. Our independent, research-driven approach to criminal justice reform leads us to support a number of changes to the existing system, including: implementing policing strategies that bolster both public safety and community relations; limiting criminal liability to culpable actors; aligning punishment with the nature and seriousness of an offense; affording victims a meaningful role in the justice process; and ensuring that prisoners return to their communities with meaningful opportunities and the knowledge and skills necessary to realize them.
A criminal justice system where actual practices correspond with best practices, as determined by fact-based, non-partisan academic research.
The Academy for Justice bridges the gap between academia and on-the-ground criminal justice reform efforts by acting as a conduit between scholarly research and ideas and criminal justice policymakers, stakeholders, journalists, and the public. Our primary objectives include:
Bridging the gap between academia and on-the-ground criminal justice reform by making scholarly research and ideas accessible to policymakers, stakeholders, journalists, and the public.
The Academy for Justice was founded by Faculty Director Erik Luna in October 2016 as a national academic alliance to address critical issues of criminal justice in the United States. That year, Erik convened the nation’s leading scholars in criminal law and other fields to produce a first-of-its-kind four-volume report on criminal justice reform.
Published in October 2017, and written by a veritable “who’s who” list of academics, Reforming Criminal Justice offers concise analyses and clear bi-partisan policy recommendations on every major issue of criminal justice policy. The final product is publicly available free of charge here, and has provided policymakers, scholars, staffers, and students around the country with an authoritative and insightful starting point for learning more about—and how to directly participate in—criminal justice reform at a local, state, and federal level. (Additional information about Reforming Criminal Justice is provided in the report’s preface here.)
In July 2018, the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law received a generous grant to help establish the Academy for Justice as an ongoing endeavor at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University, designed to serve as a platform for further projects that critically examine the criminal justice system and help inform educational, cultural, and policy efforts.
The Academy for Justice is now fully staffed and operational. See the Projects and Collaborations page to see what we’re currently working on.