Vanita Gupta, deputy legal director of ACLU Nationwide, wrote an op-ed for The New York Times about ending mass incarceration in light of the recent announcement from Attorney General Eric Holder that nonviolent drug offenders will no longer be charged with offenses that result in severe mandatory sentences, and that the Justice Department will commit to ease prison overcrowding. Over the years, the ACLU has been deeply engaged in policy efforts to address issues surrounding mass incarceration.
The buildup of our prison-industrial complex was a bipartisan process that unfolded over decades, and digging ourselves out of this hole will require unlikely political alliances. (For instance, the American Civil Liberties Union is working on sentencing reform with Right on Crime, a conservative initiative, and the American Legislative Exchange Council, an organization whose stances on immigration, voting and other civil rights policies we are fighting tooth and nail.) And where there is a lack of political will, we need to bring litigation of the kind that drove down prison populations in California and New Jersey and organize to make our voices heard.