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Criminal Justice Policy and the New Administration

Statement from Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site

February 8, 2017

As the United States transitions into a new presidential administration, we continue to urge policymakers to study recent criminal justice successes when developing federal policy.

The War on Drugs and other “get tough” policies of the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s have swollen the U.S. prison population, and have cost taxpayers tens of billions of dollars in additional investment every year. They have not produced adequate results in public safety. [1]

In recent years, many policies have shifted focus to transitioning low-risk men and women from prison back into their communities, and measuring taxpayer investment against public safety.

For example, New Jersey, New York, California and Texas have all reduced the number of people in their prisons, reduced the burden on their taxpayers, and reduced their crime rates at the same time. We believe these policies should serve as a national model.

Eastern State Penitentiary, opened in 1829 to reform the penal system, is now a historic site and museum. The site receives about a quarter of a million visitors a year. Eastern State’s new interactive exhibit, Prisons Today: Questions in the Age of Mass Incarceration, explores subjects of crime, policy and justice in today’s criminal justice system.

Eastern State’s mission statement can be found here.

Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site, Inc.
November, 2016

[1] Federal Bureau of Investigation. The U.S. Rate of Violent Crime is nearly identical to the rate in 1970. The rate 
in 1970 was 364 incidents per 100,000 residents. In 2014, it was 366 per 100,000.


2017 American Aliance of Museums Excellence in Exhibitions Overall Winner