Position on Criminal Justice

State or National:


Position in Brief:

The LWV California supports:

  • A criminal justice system that is just, effective, equitable, transparent, and that fosters public trust at all stages, including policing practices, pre-trial procedures, sentencing, incarceration, and re-entry;
  • The elimination of systemic bias, including the disproportionate policing and incarceration of marginalized communities;
  • Policing practices that promote safety for both law enforcement officers and the communities they serve;
  • Collaboration between government and community throughout every stage of the criminal justice system;
  • A focus on humane treatment and rehabilitation with the goal of promoting the successful reentry into communities of those who have been incarcerated; and
  • Reliance on evidence-based research in decision-making about law-enforcement programs and policies (including scheduled, periodic audits of program and policy effectiveness)


Policing Practices: Constitutional policies and procedures established by law enforcement with input from the communities they serve

  • Ensure that crime prevention and promotion of public safety are the primary roles of state and local law enforcement agencies. 
  • Build public trust and positive community relationships through police engagement with community members. 
  • Encourage community participation in the development of policing policy. 
  • Provide police accountability via independent citizen oversight of law enforcement and publicly available data on officer conduct. 
  • Disseminate information to the public about policing policies, recruitment, procedures for complaint/commendation, and the rights and responsibilities of citizens and officers in interactions with each other. 
  • Provide sufficient psychological services and counseling to meet stress-related needs of police personnel. 
  • Staff police departments to reflect the diversity of the communities they serve, and establish recruitment efforts that reflect this principle.
  • Train police to identify individuals with mental health conditions, disabilities, or substance abuse/addiction, so that officers will request support from appropriate medical and mental health professionals, with the goal of diverting those individuals into treatment instead of jail. 
  • Require all officers to render first aid to people who have been injured as a result of police action. 
  • Conduct comprehensive background checks, to include such history as PTSD, domestic violence, sex offenses and affiliations with domestic terrorist groups, for all applicants to law enforcement positions. 
  • Establish de-escalation (the use of time, distance, communications and available resources whenever it is safe to do so) and anti-bias training, and ensure that all staff are provided with this training. 
  • Authorize minimal use of force during police encounters with the public, and consider deadly force only when necessary to prevent imminent death or serious bodily injury. 

Pre-trial Procedures: Actions taken after an individual has been arrested, which embody the constitutional presumption of innocence

  • Ensure no person suffers discrimination before the law due to their economic status nor should they be subject to risk assessment tools which can produce biased outcomes. 
  • Provide adequate numbers of public defenders to defend indigent accused. 
  • Provide prosecutors, defense attorneys, court counselors and judges with regular training on alternatives to incarceration, including pre-trial diversion and restorative justice practices. 
  • Recognize that mental health conditions and substance abuse/addictions are public health issues, not crimes. 
  • Implement the use of specialty courts, e.g. drug treatment courts and restorative justice programs. 
  • Consider community-based treatment programs and other alternatives to incarceration when appropriate. 

Sentencing: Judgment made after an individual has been declared to be guilty

  • Consider the individual circumstances of the person charged and nature of the crime, rather than mandatory minimum sentences. 
  • Consider split sentencing and/or alternatives to incarceration when appropriate. 

Incarceration: Policies and procedures that apply to employees of and incarcerated individuals in local jails and state prisons

  • Ensure that all correctional systems provide humane, dignified, non-discriminatory treatment of incarcerated people and personnel, including appropriate healthcare and access to community-based rehabilitation programs.  
  • Eliminate the practice of solitary confinement. 
  • Ensure that incarcerated people and corrections officers have clear, safe and accessible ways to report abuse.
  • Address recidivism by instituting programs that focus on rehabilitation, education, mental health treatment, substance abuse recovery, and transitional programs.
  • Adapt case management services to match education, behavior, job training, work, and mental health programs with the needs of incarcerated individuals. 
  • Provide sufficient psychological services, including training and evaluation, to meet the needs of corrections officers. 
  • Encourage family and community visitations and ways to maintain contact. 
  • Eliminate private prisons. Until space in public prisons is available, ensure that private prisons comply with all of the standards for state-run jails and prisons. 
Re-entry: Programs in place during and after incarceration to help individuals become successful members of their communities
  • Collaborate with community-based organizations to facilitate reintegration of people released from prison. 
  • Provide pre- and post-release programs, inclusive of probation services, to prepare as well as assess and address the needs of people re-entering the community. 
  • Remove technical violations of parole as a reason to return an individual to prison. 

General: Statements which apply to some or all of the above categories

  • Standardize data and setting up systems so that information can be easily shared among criminal justice agencies. 
  • Rely on evidence-based research in decision making about criminal justice programs and policies.