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Criminal justice reform
Glimmer of Hope (Criminal Justice Reform)
Acrylic spraypaint on canvas
48" x 36"
2016
$8000

The Bureau of Justice Statistics recently reported that the federal prison population has increased by more than 4.5 times what it was in 1980 and the U.S. incarceration rate is now more than quadruple the world average. Much of the increase has been linked with the war on drugs and mandatory minimum sentences. In a 2015 ACLU survey, nearly seven in 10 voters – including 81 percent of Democrats and 54 percent of Republicans – said reducing prison populations was an important issue. Similarly, in a February survey from Pew Charitable Trusts, nearly eight in 10 Americans – including majorities of Republicans and Democrats – supported eradicating mandatory minimums for drug sentences and giving judges more discretion. Congress has recently taken up the mantle of criminal justice reform, led by a small coalition of both conservative and liberal lawmakers. The bill currently under consideration would end the provision that imposes life prison sentences for some people convicted of three drug crimes, make it easier for judges to reduce sentences for drug crimes and soften mandatory minimums for some other crimes, and create new recidivism programs to allow some inmates to earn reduced sentences. Last October the Judiciary Committee took up a bill quickly and passed it on a bipartisan vote of 15-5, but the bill’s progress stalled in the months that followed. As of June 2016, there was no scheduling information available for when the bill may hit the Senate floor for a vote. The figure in this artwork is a representation of hope and was appropriated from George Frederic Watt’s artwork entitled Hope (1886). The slivers of light, ajar cell door, and single string remaining on the lyre are metaphors for the glimmer of hope in the hearts of those seeking criminal justice reform.