How do we reconcile the call in some quarters for more low-level enforcement with a desire to reduce the impact of the criminal justice system, particularly on communities of color? This article from the Boston University Law Review by Center for Court Innovation director Greg Berman and director of policy and research Julian Adler seeks to articulate a new approach to misdemeanor justice that reconciles the maintenance of public safety with the urgent need to reduce unnecessary incarceration.
The authors explore five critical dimensions: (1) moving some low-level charges from the criminal to the civil system; (2) increasing the use of arrest diversion programs; (3) promoting supervised release in lieu of bail and pretrial detention; (4) promoting alternatives to incarceration with an eye toward eliminating short-term jail sentences; and (5) advancing the principles of procedural justice. Taken together, these reforms add up to a significant re-thinking of the standard approach to misdemeanor crime. "If they are broadly implemented in good faith," the authors write, "they will be an important step toward the creation of a more fair and humane justice system."