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Millions of people suffer behind bars. There are 2.2 million locked away in the United States, about 25 percent of the world’s total. Out of sight, they are not just “out of mind.” If we are honest: they are mostly out of our hearts, as well.

Too many men and women are unnecessarily incarcerated as a result of the failed policies of the past. Our prison and jail populations grew by more than 400% over the past 30 years, and there are now nearly 7 million people incarcerated, on parole, or on probation. 70+ million Americans have a criminal record.

The incarcerated live day after day, divorced from the empathy of most of human society. They are brutalized, neglected, or otherwise mistreated. We know this. But we look away. We go on with our lives. We let the terrors drag on. This abandonment of our sisters and brothers to such horrors, committed in our name, is made possible by a massive “empathy gap” — our inability to see ourselves in those who are incarcerated.

We envision a criminal justice system that recognizes the humanity of the 2.2 million people currently behind bars in America and moves toward compassion and treatment rather than punishment and incarceration. With empathyunderstanding, and love, we can build the political will needed to rectify the damage caused by the incarceration industry on individuals, families, and our society.

2020 Day Of Empathy

On March 25, 2020, hundreds of activists met online with elected officials across all 50 states and in Canada and Washington, D.C., sharing their experiences and stories, and exemplifying the human consequences of a criminal justice system that has gotten too big, too unfair, and too brutal. 

Grassroots networks across the country mobilized to spotlight their local efforts and unite under a unified banner to highlight the strength of the criminal justice reform movement. By bringing impacted people and their families together with elected officials and using media and storytelling to share their stories, we created empathy on a massive scale for millions of Americans behind bars and their loved ones.