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Campaign for Smart Justice

The ACLU of Pennsylvania is working to reduce the jail and prison population by 50 percent while combating racial disparities in the criminal justice system. We can do this by urging district attorneys across Pennsylvania to adopt policies that are smart on justice instead of being merely tough on crime.

Why We Must End Mass Incarceration

Imprisonment is a brutal and costly response to crime that traumatizes incarcerated people and hurts families and communities, while failing to improve public safety. It should be the last option, not the first. Yet the U.S. incarcerates more people, in both absolute numbers and per capita, than any other nation in the world. And among the states, Pennsylvania is one of the worst offenders.

Pennsylvania has the fifth largest population of incarcerated people in the country.

In 2015, Pennsylvania had over 280,000 people under court supervision, many long after their crimes were originally committed.

Black Pennsylvanians are 8.9 times more likely to be incarcerated than whites, while Latinos are three times more likely to be incarcerated than white Pennsylvanians.

Pennsylvania has the third highest number of people on probation and parole in the country.

Photo by: Molly Kaplan

Photo by: Phuong Tran


The district attorney is the most powerful person in the criminal justice system. Pennsylvania’s 67 district attorneys should use their extraordinary power to seek justice, not convictions, by being transparent about how their offices operate and regularly releasing data, not seeking cash bail, and enacting policies to diminish mass incarceration.

District attorneys in Pennsylvania should also use their influence in the state legislature to oppose any effort to reinstate mandatory minimums at sentencing. Voters should elect reform-minded district attorneys and hold them accountable to smart justice goals. That’s why we’ve asked every district attorney in the commonwealth to complete a survey detailing their position on smart criminal justice reform.