The Brennan Center for Justice leads national efforts to ensure that citizens — not special interests or partisan operatives — are at the center of our politics. The Center’s Democracy Program brings national perspective and expertise in the fight to protect and promote voting rights, campaign finance reform, redistricting integrity, and a fair and independent judiciary.
Currently, there are two major threats to the integrity of our democracy. First, in recent years, we have seen the largest, most coordinated attack on voting rights since the Jim Crow era. Second is the new dystopian world of unregulated campaign spending ushered in by Citizens United.
Other problems plague our systems of democracy, too. It's an open secret: more and more legislative districts reflect calculations by those in power about how they can best preserve that power, while fewer and fewer give meaningful representation to communities of voters. Public confidence in the courts is at a crisis point, exacerbated by an explosion in judicial election spending.
Collaborating with grassroots groups, advocacy organizations, and reform-minded government officials, we contribute cutting edge legal strategy, innovative policy development, empirical research for legal and policy efforts, and high-impact communications to advance our goals.
The Brennan Center’s Justice Program advances data-driven, innovative, practical legal reforms to secure our nation’s promise of “equal justice for all.” It seeks to create a rational and effective criminal and civil justice system that treats all people fairly and equally.
Our system of justice repeatedly and profoundly fails to live up to the American ideals of equality, fairness, and justice. Our criminal and civil legal systems are tarred with unfairness, injustices, disparities, and irrationality that disproportionately affect those who are the most in need of the law’s assistance. This dysfunction has led to 2.3 million Americans, disproportionately people of color, filling our prisons to the brim, most of whom are unnecessarily incarcerated.
Meanwhile, the United States faces a global economic crisis with reverberations in housing, education, employment, and government budgets. The program focuses on ending mass incarceration, racial justice, and closing the “justice gap” ensuring that all Americans have adequate ability to protect their rights.
Our nation and its people must be kept safe from terrorism. At the same time, policies to protect safety are strongest when they honor core constitutional values. All systems – no matter how necessary – improve when they are held accountable. Unfortunately, in the years since 9/11, too often our national security system has tilted away from that critical balance.
The Brennan Center seeks effective national security policies that respect constitutional values and the rule of law while protecting our people. The Brennan Center works to:
- Restore the Proper Flow of Information Between the Government and the People
In a free democracy, information about governmental actions should be presumptively available to the people, while personal information about law-abiding Americans and U.S. residents should be presumptively off-limits to the government. Increasingly, this principle is upended. The Brennan Center works to restore the proper balance by securing increased public access to government information and sensible limits on the government’s access to citizen information.
- Ensure that Policies Effectively Target the Terrorist Threat
Many recent domestic policies are too broad in scope, focusing law enforcement resources and scrutiny on people whose connection to terrorism is tenuous or even non-existent. The failure to properly target counterterrorism efforts not only intrudes on individual liberties – it opens the door to ethnic and religious profiling, and makes us less safe by diverting focus from more productive paths. The Brennan Center works to recalibrate domestic counterterrorism policies so that they properly target the threat we face.
- Secure Appropriate Mechanisms for Oversight and Accountability
A lack of institutional oversight mechanisms has left the government’s exercise of its post-9/11 powers largely unsupervised; enabling abuses and leading to less effective counterterrorism policies. The Brennan Center is pursuing innovative institutional solutions to this oversight gap.