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Millions of people suffer behind bars. The United States accounts for about 25 percent of the world’s total incarcerated population. This is not just simply out of sight, out of mind. If most of us are honest: incarcerated people 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 have grown  by more than 400% over the past 30 years, and there are now nearly 7 million people incarcerated, on parole, or on probation. That equals 70+ million Americans with a criminal record, in the past 3 decades.

The incarcerated live day after day, divorced from the empathy of most of human society.  We know this. But we look away. We go on with our lives.  However, this abandonment of our sisters and brothers, community members, and loved ones  is made possible by a massive “empathy gap” — our inability to see ourselves in those who are incarcerated.

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

Day of Empathy 2021

The Day of Empathy is an annual, national day of action to generate empathy on a massive scale for the millions of Americans impacted by the criminal justice system. In partnership with our 50 state network of criminal justice reform organizers, we aim to: 

  • Build empathy in our elected officials — governors, state legislators, and other policymakers — to take action on criminal justice reform; 
  • Humanize and uplift the stories of those who have been impacted by the criminal justice system through personal interactions with lawmakers to demonstrate the impact that policy has on the lives of impacted people, their spouses, their children, their parents, their friends, crime survivors, and their communities.

When: Tuesday, March 2nd, 2021

Where: Organizers across the country, in all 50 states and in the District of Columbia, will activate for a single day of action to spotlight state and local efforts to highlight the urgency of criminal justice reform.

Why: Without empathy, we cannot achieve meaningful policy changes in criminal justice reform that keep our communities safe, our families whole, and our economy strong.

Download the 2021 Day of Empathy Factsheet

2020 Day Of Empathy

On March 25, 2020, hundreds of activists met online with elected officials across all 50 states, 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.

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