AFJ and the future of criminal justice reform

By Juli Kempner
AFJ Volunteer

The Alliance of Families for Justice, founded in the fall of 2016, provides support for families of incarcerated individuals and those with criminal records. As an organization poised to address the ravages of mass incarceration, we need your help now more than ever.

Under President Obama we saw both tremendous progress and the creation of a climate for policy change. He visited a federal prison and spoke with people serving time. In doing so, he began to create an environment more sympathetic to changing public perception of incarcerated individuals.  

President Obama commuted the sentences of more people than the previous 10 presidents combined—well over 1,000 men and women. In addition, using his executive power he established the Second Chance Pell Pilot Program allowing incarcerated people to once again receive Pell Grants to pursue college degrees. It has been established beyond question that the key to effective rehabilitation is access to education. He issued an Executive Order “banning the box” on applications for federal jobs, which will go a long way toward reducing stigma and improving employment opportunities.  Of tremendous importance is the fact that he banned solitary confinement of juveniles in federal prisons.

In addition, we had seen signs of a public policy shift in favor of de-privatizing prisons, including a statement by the Justice Department that privately run prisons were less safe and secure than government-run ones, and an announcement that it would phase out federal privately-run prisons. This sent the stock of Corrections Corporation of America (recently rebranded as CoreCivic), one of the biggest private prison management companies in the U.S., down by 35%. After the election, CoreCivic rose by 47%. President-elect Trump is a firm supporter of private prisons.

With the new administration, many of the executive orders can and most likely will be rescinded. Even worse, we can anticipate a shift to a “law and order state," in which the policies which have helped perpetuate mass incarceration will be aggressively expanded and enforced. Jeffrey Sessions, Trump’s choice for Attorney General, has been a steadfast opponent of criminal justice reform.

Who will stand against this new shift in power?  

In the face of these new challenges, the AFJ is here and will continue to fight against the worst of these policies and the human cost of lives lost and families shattered by unjust and unduly long periods of incarceration of loved ones. We seek nothing less than an end to mass incarceration, but we need your help.

We empower the families of incarcerated individuals to be effective advocates for their loved ones, providing referrals and connection to services, including legal assistance for individuals who suffer abuse while in prison. We help train those with records and their families to become effective leaders in this movement, as they know best how to advocate for solutions to this issue, and mobilize collective voting power. A donation to AFJ will not only have an impact on the lives of the families we serve, but will help create a more just society for us all.