The ACLU advocates for a criminal justice system that fosters public safety by reducing over-incarceration and recidivism. We work to ensure that constitutional rights apply to all, regardless of race, ethnicity or economics. We also challenge broken death penalty systems, confront illegal police practices, and advocate for drug policy reform.
What You Need to Know
The ACLU is demanding changes to the ways police departments interact with and enforce the law in poor communities and communities of color across the country. Residents in these communities are being forced to bear the devastating effects of law enforcement’s selective enforcement of low-level and drug offenses, as well as widespread use of excessive force.
The absence of strong, well-resourced indigent defense systems offends the Constitution, leads to deeply unfair results, and contributes to our overburdened and wasteful jail and prison systems. Through litigation and advocacy, we work to ensure that states invest in statewide indigent defense systems that provide constitutionally effective representation to low-income defendants.
After an arrest — wrongful or not — a person’s ability to leave jail and return home to fight the charges depends on money. That's because, in most states, people are required to pay cash bail. Originally, bail was supposed to make sure people return to court to face charges against them. But instead, the money bail system has morphed into widespread wealth-based incarceration.
To win convictions and death sentences, too many police officers and “tough on crime” prosecutors, seated through election, cut corners with the Constitution. There is incentive for them to hide evidence favorable to the defense and offer juries false testimony. The death sentences that result from prosecutorial misconduct represent a gross perversion of justice.
The ACLU believes that the death penalty inherently violates the Constitution's Eighth Amendment ban against cruel and unusual punishment as well as Fourteenth Amendment guarantees of due process of law and of equal protection under the law. Nowhere are the consequences of a broken criminal justice system more severe than in administration of the death penalty; and nowhere is it more evident that race plays a major role in who is charged, convicted and executed.