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The Journal of the Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration at The George Washington University


In “the land of the free,” there are 1.6 million people incarcerated in prison or jail as of 2023 (World Prison Brief n.d.). The United States system of mass incarceration disproportionately impacts communities of color and inflicts personal, social, and economic harm on incarcerated individuals. This paper examines the history of previous federal policies and funding that influenced the criminal justice system and how these legislative actions resulted in the era of mass incarceration in the US. This paper concludes that allocating federal funding to support reentry programs, establish universal voting rights, and increase monitoring of reform efforts, along with a coordinated policy response from state lawmakers, will propel lasting change in the criminal justice system.

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