6 ballot measures that could change the criminal justice system

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Zac Freeland/Vox

Voters in several states have a chance to change the criminal justice system in 2020.

This November, six ballot measures in five states will give voters a chance to make significant changes to their criminal justice systems.

In Oklahoma, voters could ban harsh sentencing enhancements that can keep people in prison longer for nonviolent crimes. In California, voters will consider three measures: one to affirm the end of cash bail, another to let people vote while on parole, and a third to roll back recent criminal justice reforms. In Nebraska and Utah, voters could prohibit slavery as a criminal punishment, including forced prison labor. And in Kentucky, voters could approve a controversial crime victims’ rights law.

Not all of these are for reform as many people think of it today. Some of the initiatives, particularly in California and Kentucky, have been criticized by activists seeking to end mass incarceration and the war on drugs.

But depending on how voters take these initiatives, they could continue the broader work of the past decade to reel back America’s punitive criminal justice system. Galvanized by Black Lives Matter, other civil rights…


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