The American Civil Liberties of Arizona is a leader in the ACLU’s Campaign for Smart Justice, a multiyear initiative aimed at reducing the U.S. jail and prison population by 50 percent and combating racial disparities in the criminal justice system.

The United States incarcerates too many people for too long and for the wrong reasons.

Imprisonment is a brutal and costly response to crime that traumatizes incarcerated people and hurts families and communities. It should be the last option, not the first. For the last four decades, this country has relentlessly expanded the size of its criminal justice system, needlessly throwing away too many lives and wasting trillions of taxpayer dollars.

Arizona simply cannot afford the current approach any longer. The result of incarceration is destabilization.  Arizona families and communities suffer the consequences. 

Join the campaign.

Smart Justice Reading List

A.Smart Justice Reading List

  • Abolition Democracy: Beyond Prisons, Torture, and Empire by Angela Y. Davis
  • Are Prisons Obsolete? by Angela Y. Davis
  • Incarceration Nation by Baz Dreisinger
  • Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
  • A Colony In A Nation by Chris Hayes
  • Marked: Race, Crime, and finding Work in an Era of Mass Incarceration by Devah Pager
  • From the War on Poverty to the War on Crime: The Making of Mass Incarceration in America by Elizabeth Hinton
  • Devil in the Grove by Gilbert King
  • Dog Whistle Politics: How Coded Racial Appeals Have Reinvented Racism & Wrecked the Middle Class by Ian Haney Lopez
  • Understanding Mass Incarceration: A People’s Guide to the Key Civil Rights Struggle of Our Time by James Kilgore
  • Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs by Johann Hari
  • Locked In by John Pfaff
  • The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander
  • Sunbelt Justice by Mona Lynch
  • Hard Bargains: The Coercive Power of Drug Laws in Federal Court by Mona Lynch, 2016
  • Burning Down the House: The End of Juvenile Prison by Nell Berstein
  • Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces by Radley Balko

Mass Incarceration: An Animated series

A.Mass Incarceration: An Animated series


The United States incarcerates more people, in both absolute numbers and per capita, than any other nation in the world. Since 1970, the number of incarcerated people has increased sevenfold to 2.3 million in jail and prison today, far outpacing population growth and crime.

Not everyone is treated equally in the criminal justice system. Racial bias keeps more people of color in prisons and on probation than ever before. One out of every three Black boys born today can expect to go to prison in his lifetime, as can one of every six Latino boys — compared with one of every 17 white boys. Black people are also subject to pretrial detention at a higher rate than white arrestees with similar charges and history.

Here are the stories of three people whose experiences show the toll that an abusive and unjust criminal system takes on individuals, families, and communities.

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