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Correctional Reform Associations - Conclusion

ngos american justice voluntary

NGOs have played a major and significant role in the evolution of the American justice system. Indeed, some have argued that most of the truly significant reforms have been energized and pushed by groups outside the formal governmental channels (Sutton). The last several decades have witnessed the continued creation and growth of NGOs devoted to the causes of sentencing and corrections reform. These groups operate with modest funding derived from private philanthropy and public memberships. Some NGOs have been successful at attracting limited governmental funding in jurisdictions in which progressive criminal justice professionals have sought their assistance.

While he was studying American prisons in the early nineteenth century, Tocqueville commented on the vibrancy of civic life, and on the fact that Americans were always forming new voluntary associations to improve their communities. He believed that these voluntary groups or NGOs were essential to preserving American democracy. The NGOs that have focused on justice issues have certainly contributed to a lively debate and struggle for those core American principles that are celebrated the U.S. Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Without the efforts of NGOs the justice system might easily embrace pragmatic and expedient policies, regardless of the threats to human and civil rights. Not all of the reforms introduced by the NGOs stood the test of time, but these organizations continue to press for innovations, and for greater humanity in our treatment of wayward youth and adult lawbreakers.

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