When it comes to criminal justice, there is much to be gleaned from the policies and practices in other democratic nations. Other nations protect public safety without imprisoning as large a percentage of their population, handle law-breaking behavior in ways less reliant on incarceration, and have different approaches to addressing complex social issues.
A country’s criminal justice policies and practices do not exist within a vacuum: they are a product of the larger social systems and political realities to which they are inextricably tied. For this reason, some policymakers may think other countries are too fundamentally different than the U.S. for these policies to be adopted.
This report compares and contrasts the criminal justice policies and social, economic, and governmental structures of five countries – Australia, Canada, England and Wales, Finland and Germany – to the United States. While each nation has a unique set of circumstances and realities, each has enough fundamental similarities to the U.S. that cross-national policy adoption could be considered. An evaluation of the various similarities and differences can broaden the existing dialogue and create more momentum for the types of systemic reforms that will reduce the burden of over-incarceration on communities, states, and the country as a whole.
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