Critics of the criminal justice system have no shortage of issues to examine. Whether an academic analyzes inequalities in death sentencing or a social activist protests drug laws, it seems the entire spectrum of criminal justice is in need of reform.
From who and why police are arresting particular individuals and how courts administer justice to how many people are incarcerated and the condition of jails, one can get lost in the array of challenges. FedCURE, a nonprofit organization based in Florida, has chosen a focused approach to criminal justice reform by turning its attention specifically to federal inmates.
FedCURE seeks to reform the criminal justice system, starting from the issues facing federal prisons. Its range of reform advocacy includes everything from sentencing to release of prisoners, and everything in between. In its own words, the organization wants to “effectively address crime through alternative sentencing options, to understand issues facing prisoners, facilitate transitional services during reintegration into a community and reintroduce effective rehabilitation programs in federal prisons.”
Organizations such as FedCURE are exemplars of how criminal justice reform can work—with lofty goals combined with pragmatic attention to outcomes.
FedCURE’s goals are ideologically driven and span the entire criminal justice system. Its ultimate agenda is to see a reduction in overall prison populations, better prison conditions and increased post-release support systems like halfway houses. However, like any good social advocacy organization, its leadership understands that changing an entire system takes time and patience, and can only be accomplished by steadily chipping away at it.
To create change in its specialized field of criminal justice reform, FedCURE seeks to “establish a hybrid system of parole and increased good time allowances, fast track compassionate release for terminally ill inmates, restore Pell grants” and to develop and facilitate innovative reentry programs designed to keep former inmates out of jail. Specific goals like these are designed to measure real progress and create actual change, allowing members and donors to see how criminal justice reform works in action.
Fostering criminal justice reform isn’t easy, however. For this reason, much of FedCURE’s work involves soliciting donations and educating the public and public officials, with the hope of influencing real policy changes. Further, policies and legislation are often worded in ways unrecognizable to non-experts. And because the news media tends to focus little attention on criminal justice issues, it is up to organizations such as FedCURE to translate complex legal jargon and overtly political policy changes into understandable and easily readable forms of commentary.
The commentary FedCURE provides on changes in the criminal justice system also needs to reach a wide-ranging audience. For this reason, the group disseminates its commentary through various channels. The organization publishes free daily updates and frequent newsletters for members and facilitates advocacy efforts through social media and blogs to stay connected to a new generation of potential advocates. In fact, FedCURE has proven particularly apt at communicating tough issues through succinct messages via social media platforms.
Additionally, experts in the field would be delighted to know that members, given proper credentials, can publish scholarly or journalistic-style articles for other members to read. These articles are focused on prisoner- and prison-related topics and serve as an effective way to further fact-based dialogue on criminal justice reform.
FedCURE understands that achieving big goals starts with small actions. By educating the public and advocating for manageable reforms, this organization continues to work toward the change that’s critically needed in our nation’s federal penitentiaries.