The American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire works to reform the criminal justice system and make the promise of fair treatment a reality for all people. Especially in the face of economic crisis, our government should invest in alternatives to incarceration and make prisons options of last – not first – resort.
There are 2.3 million people behind bars in this country — that is triple the amount of prisoners we had in 1987 — and 25 percent of those incarcerated are locked up for drug offenses. Taxpayers spend almost $70 billion a year on corrections and incarceration. It is un-American to stand idly by and tolerate our government locking up so many people and squandering public resources to do so.
Through litigation, advocacy, and public education, we work to ensure conditions of confinement are constitutional and consistent with health, safety, and human dignity. Our goals include substantially reducing the existing incarcerated population, especially among people of color, the mentally ill, and other vulnerable populations; ending cruel, inhumane, and degrading conditions of confinement; increasing public accountability and transparency of jails, prisons, and other places of detention; and expanding prisoners’ freedom of religion, expression, and association. Achieving these goals will result in a criminal justice system that respects individual rights and increases public safety for everyone at greatly reduced fiscal cost.
It is time to improve our criminal justice system and invest in alternative solutions which are more effective than lengthy sentences. We must reduce the number of people who needlessly enter prison in the first place. In America, our criminal justice system should keep communities safe and treat people fairly, regardless of the color of their skin or the size of their bank account. In order for our system to do a good job, it must be cost-effective by using our taxpayer dollars and public resources wisely in an evidence-based, rather than fear-based, manner.
ACLU-NH is committed to reforming the criminal justice system and working collaboratively to find alternative solutions to incarceration.