New York State and the entire country are engaged in a serious public conversation on the meaning of justice and how it is applied in our communities, courts and prisons. Issues of particular importance to the legal community enter into that discussion, including sentencing reform, mandatory minimums, wrongful convictions and the ways in which racism shapes the application of justice. As lawyers with many decades of experience representing people caught up in the criminal justice system, we welcome that conversation. Whether in the media, including the New York Law Journal, in courtrooms, or in legislatures, there is a growing recognition that our justice system has too often been unfair and its punishments vengeful and draconian.

From this conversation has emerged a national consensus that we have relied too much on incarceration to solve social problems and enhance public safety. The incarceration of huge numbers of people has not lowered our crime rate. It has, however, separated families, contributed to the impoverishment of entire communities, and returned literally millions of people to the community burdened with statutory and social obstacles to successful lives.

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