Eight Ways You Can Advance Justice Reform in 2024

Every person can play a part in ending mass incarceration.
Erica Bryant Associate Director of Writing
Jan 04, 2024

The total jail and prison population in the United States has declined 21 percent since mass incarceration reached its peak level in 2008. Still, nearly two million people remain in state and federal prisons, local jails, immigration detention centers, and other carceral facilities. This horrifically high incarceration rate—one of the highest in the world—is the result of numerous unjust practices and policies that disproportionately harm Black people and people experiencing poverty.

More and more people are recognizing that so-called “tough on crime” policies are not the path to public safety. This is progress, but much work remains. While activists, advocates, and organizations like Vera are working to end mass incarceration, there are many actions you can take to help build a society that provides true justice for all.

1. Sign petitions and make your voice heard

Petitions are powerful tools that show policymakers how many people support change. You can add your name in support of needed criminal legal and immigration system reforms:

2. Advocate for needed changes

Contact your elected officials and other policymakers to share your support for specific criminal legal and immigration system reforms:

If you want to advocate for additional reforms to help end mass incarceration, or if you don’t know who your representatives are, you can use this tool to find out who represents your district and how to contact them.

3. Support local and grassroots efforts

Many decisions that drive mass incarceration happen at the town and county levels. Local grassroots organizations are fighting jail expansions, pushing decarceration efforts, and helping people who are harmed by the criminal legal and immigration systems. Find opportunities to support the efforts of organizations local to you.

Here are four of the many organizations working with Vera to create change in their communities:

  • Mano Amiga advocates for criminal legal system and immigration policy reform in central Texas and was instrumental in pushing for the establishment of a much-needed public defender office in Hays County, as well as a cite and release ordinance that has spared many people jail time.
  • East Baton Rouge Parish Prison Reform Coalition is a community coalition united to bring reform to Louisiana’s East Baton Rouge Parish Prison and end its inhumane and, at times, deadly conditions.
  • VOCAL New York is a statewide organization that is building a movement of people with low incomes who are dedicated to ending the AIDS epidemic, the “War on Drugs,” mass incarceration, and homelessness. VOCAL-NY fights for systemic change rooted in “justice, compassion, and love.”
  • JusticeLA works to reduce the footprint of incarceration in Los Angeles by stopping jail expansion and pushing resources away from incarceration and towards community-based systems of care.

4. Comment on legislation and policy

Federal law requires that government agencies consider the public’s comments regarding proposed rule changes. For example, last year the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development requested public comments on new regulations that would remove barriers to fair housing testing for people with conviction histories.

Sign up for Vera’s email list for updates on when you can submit comments in support of future important proposed changes that are relevant to our work. You can also visit Regulations.gov to see what other proposals are currently accepting comments.

5. Send messages of support to incarcerated people

Sending messages of support is one way to let people in prisons and jails know that they are not forgotten. There are many pen pal programs that connect incarcerated people with letter writers in the outside community. One, organized by prison abolitionist organization Black & Pink, coordinates a nationwide pen pal program that connects people to incarcerated LGBTQIA2S+ pen pals to build relationships and support networks.

6. Amplify messages that promote true justice and public safety for all

Post and spread messages that amplify the need to end mass incarceration and build a society that respects the dignity of every person. Look at Vera’s Instagram, news, X (formerly Twitter), Facebook, and YouTube pages for examples.

7. Learn more about the criminal legal and immigration systems

There are many ways to educate yourself about the injustice baked into the criminal legal and immigration systems. These excellent books, documentaries, and podcasts, in particular, can help you learn more. For even more information and ideas for how to put what you learn into action, sign up for Vera’s email list.

8. Give

Your financial support helps Vera fight to end mass incarceration, secure equal justice, and build a society that is safe for all people, regardless of race or wealth. By supporting our work, you can play a key role in reducing the harms done by the current criminal legal and immigration systems and help replace them with alternatives that respect the dignity of all people.

We’ve made real progress to end mass incarceration in the past year—but much work remains. Every effort matters, and every person can play a part. Together, we can continue working toward a future that provides safety and justice for all.