In the last few years policymakers on both sides of the political aisle and across the country have turned their attention to criminal justice reform. Such reforms represents decades of work undertaken by activists, social scientists, and policy experts to respond to the negative consequences of “tough on crime” legislation. Pointing to the devastating effects of mass incarceration and the disproportionate impacts of these policies on poor people and people of color, the huge cost of these programs on state and local budgets, and the way these policies have further frayed community and police relations, a consensus has emerged that the criminal justice policies of the past several decades have failed and that reform is needed. While this shift in policy priorities is to be lauded, a small but growing number of scholars raise the question of whether reform is enough. These critics wonder about the long term efficacy and potential “unintended” consequences of criminal justice reform, making the case that more drastic policy must be undertaken and that reform cannot begin and end with the criminal justice system.
Inspired by these critiques, this symposium asks that we take a step back and examine this criminal justice reform closely, creating the space for dialogue and debate about the “unintended,” unforeseen, and unanticipated impacts of reform efforts.