Chamber Executive Article Archive

Chambers Get Smart on Justice

by Several Authors

Is criminal justice reform a business issue? It’s probably not on your chamber’s public policy agenda, but consider these numbers.

  • One in 110 American adults is behind bars. That’s more than two million people and nearly triple the prison population just 30 years ago.
  • One in 35 American adults is under correctional control. That’s one-third of our nation’s workforce either locked up or on probation or parole.
  • One in 14 state general fund dollars spent are on corrections. That’s $54 billion in total expenditures annually.
  • One in eight state employees work for corrections. That's more than the total number of educators at state colleges and universities.
Info Graphic 1

Despite the size, cost, and growth, our state and federal criminal justice systems are not producing better outcomes or reducing recidivism.

  • Crime rates have fallen, but not in proportion to the corrections system’s growth.
  • An analysis of the most recent data finds no clear causal relationship between higher incarceration and lower crime. On the contrary, 30 states have reduced both rates at the same time.
  • Despite courts imposing longer sentences for crimes, four out of 10 inmates return to prison within three years of release. That’s worse than a 40 percent failure rate.
Info Graphic 2

What’s driving the growth? Not the hardened violent criminals you might suspect.

  • 58 percent of prisoners arrive because of a technical violation of parole, probation or other controlled supervision.
  • Of the new offenders sentenced to prison, more than half are convicted of non-violent drug offenses.
Info Graphic 3

If you care about workforce development, transportation or higher education, you should care about criminal justice reform. The state funding streams and systems are highly connected. For those reasons, many chambers of commerce have already weighed in on this important issue:

Kentucy Chamber Logo

“We know everyone wants to be tough on crime, but when you point out to a Rotary Club or chamber member that it costs $20,000 to send somebody to prison for a low-level drug offense, and that’s equivalent to sending three people to a community college, they see it doesn’t make sense to lock up everyone hanging out on a street corner.”

– Dave Adkisson, CCE, president and CEO,
Kentucky Chamber of Commerce

LA Chamber

“Los Angeles has learned that an unintended consequence of getting tougher on crime leads to a massive investment in criminal justice at the expense of education and prevention. The Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce leads a Smart Justice approach that promotes public safety and expands investments in education, training, and preventions that work.”

– David Rattray, executive vice president of education and
workforce development, Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce

	Detroit Chamber

“Building on our long history of advocating for sound criminal justice reform, supporting “presumptive parole” policies that ensure that those sentenced to prison no longer serve exorbitantly long prison terms. The Chamber recognizes that a significant portion of associated cost savings should be redirected to efforts to increase public safety.”

– 2016 Legislative Priorities


A chorus of other voices are speaking out on this issue. Republicans, Democrats, faith-based organizations, taxpayer advocates, journalists, lawmakers.

Logo Cluster
Logo Cluster

If you haven’t already explored this issue and its impact on your state, let us help. Explore the Pew Charitable Trusts’ Public Safety Performance Project at for information and resources. Call ACCE to learn about how chambers have engaged on these issues at 703-998-0072.


Download this article: Chambers Get Smart on Justice PDF (2)

Go Back | Send this page to a friend
Accrisoft is an Official Corporate Sponsor of ACCE American Express is an Official Corporate Sponsor of ACCE Aventura World by Central Holidays West is an Official Corporate Sponsor of ACCE, the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives Benfits Trust is an Official Corporate Sponsor of ACCE Citslinc is an Official Corporate Sponsor of ACCE Insperity is an Official Corporate Sponsor of ACCE Market Street Services is an Official Corporate Sponsor of ACCE, the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives United Networks of America is an Official Corporate Sponsor of ACCE The U.S. Chamber is an Official Corporate Sponsor of ACCE
Sponsorship and advertising opportunities 2018 ACCE Annual Convention